Skip to Content
 

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue No. 27 - Evidence - May 16, 2017


OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, met this day at 5:02 p.m., to study Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act.

Senator Paul J. Massicotte (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Paul Massicotte. I represent the province of Quebec in the Senate, and I am the deputy chair of this committee.

I would like to welcome the members of the public here in the room, as well as those watching us on television. For those watching, I remind you that committee hearings are open to the public and they can also be seen by webcast at www.senate.ca. You will also find other information on the schedule of meetings under the heading "Senate Committees''.

I now invite senators to introduce themselves, starting with my colleague to my right.

[English]

Senator Beyak: Lynn Beyak, Ontario.

Senator Fraser: Joan Fraser, Quebec.

Senator Black: Douglas Black, Alberta.

Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.

Senator Eggleton: Art Eggleton, Toronto, and the sponsor of the Bill C-18 in the Senate.

Senator Lang: Daniel Lang, Yukon.

Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman, Montreal, Quebec.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: I would also like to introduce our clerk, Maxime Fortin, and our analyst from the Library of Parliament, Sam Banks.

Honourable senators, last May 4, the Senate entrusted us with the study of Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act. For today's first meeting on the study of Bill C-18, it is our pleasure to welcome the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Madam Minister, you are accompanied today by three officials from the Parks Canada Agency. They are Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Pam Veinotte, Field Unit Superintendent, Rouge National Urban Park, and Rachel Grasham, Director of Policy, Legislative and Cabinet Affairs. Thank you for agreeing to appear before us today. I invite you first of all to make your opening statement, after which we will move to questions and answers. I must point out that the minister has to leave us at 5:45 p.m., so let us make sure that we use the time we have effectively, by asking short questions and giving short answers.

The floor is yours, Madam Minister.

Hon. Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P., Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Thank you, honourable senators. I am very pleased to be here, on what I see as a wonderful occasion.

[English]

I'm proud to join you today as part of your committee deliberations to present Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

I would like to thank Senator Eggleton for his assistance on this file. Also, I have beside me Daniel Watson, the head of Parks Canada, and Pam Veinotte, who has worked extraordinarily hard on this file to get us to this great place we are at today.

[Translation]

I am proud to join you today as part of your committee deliberations to present Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act and the Canada National Parks Act.

[English]

Bill C-18 proposes a series of amendments to three existing laws. I believe each set of amendments is in the interest of all Canadians.

The first set of changes relates to Rouge National Urban Park, located in the Greater Toronto Area. It is the first park of its kind in Canada. Essentially, the amendments would support Parks Canada's efforts to realize the full potential of the Rouge.

Rouge National Urban Park is unique for many reasons. The plants and animals living there are remarkably diverse and include many species at risk. The lands that make up this special place have witnessed thousands of years of human history. Indigenous peoples travelled, settled and thrived along the Rouge River for millennia, and today archaeologists consider some indigenous village sites in the park among the oldest in Canada.

I had the opportunity to see a presentation of artefacts from the Huron-Wendat settlement in the area of the Rouge.

[Translation]

Agriculture continues to thrive in Rouge National Urban Park; in fact, large tracts of class 1 farmland — the rarest, richest, and most fertile in the country — can be found there. Some of this land has been farmed continuously for centuries.

[English]

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Rouge National Urban Park, however — and the reason that all Canadians have a stake in its success — has to do with its location in our largest city. Establishing a national urban park within a city provides an opportunity to share and showcase the marvels of Canada with thousands of urban dwellers and newcomers to this country.

In recent decades, most newcomers to Canada have settled in our largest cities. Sadly, many are not familiar with Canada's natural and cultural heritage. Rouge National Urban Park, however, is accessible by public transit to thousands of newcomers. In fact, it is within an hour by public transit of 7 million Canadians. This fact and the park's incredible heritage and stories hint at the vast potential of the Rouge.

To get the full sense of this potential, consider a key factor that drives people to visit national parks. Research demonstrates that once a person visits one of our national parks, he or she is much more likely to visit other national parks.

Rouge National Urban Park is a gateway to Canada's other national parks. Throughout the year, it offers the very popular Parks Canada Learn to Camp program, introducing families to the very Canadian activity of camping. Visitors are exposed to and engage with this country's compelling natural, cultural and agricultural heritage in an urban setting close to their homes. Canadians can only benefit as a result.

I'll just say that personally, last year was my first visit to Rouge National Urban Park, even though I grew up in Hamilton. I was so surprised to see, in a place I thought was a very dense urban area, you have a park and beautiful parklands where you can canoe, hike and learn to camp. I think it's an exciting opportunity.

Parks Canada also collaborates with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship in a special program. Under the program, new Canadian citizens and their families receive a pass guaranteeing free admission for a year to more than 1,000 sites across the country, including national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas managed by Parks Canada. In fact, we're doing citizenship ceremonies in parks and historic sites.

This year, as I hope you all know, to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation, the Government of Canada is pleased to offer free admission for all visitors to all sites operated by Parks Canada.

Rouge National Urban Park is an ideal place to be introduced to Canada's natural, cultural and agricultural heritage. Bill C-18 places ecological integrity as a first priority when managing the park. This was a condition to the Province of Ontario moving forward on the transfer of provincial lands to the park.

Ecological integrity involves maintaining native components such as wildlife, plants, waters and ecological processes. Parks Canada prioritizes ecological integrity in its management of national parks, and Bill C-18 will allow Parks Canada to the follow the same approach in its management of Rouge National Urban Park.

[Translation]

I expect that you all, like the vast majority of Canadians, take great pride in our heritage. We appreciate that Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and a rich history. We love to connect with this heritage because it inspires us and reinvigorates us; it speaks to who we are as Canadians and to what we believe in. This is why we enact laws to protect the places we hold dear, and why we authorize Parks Canada to manage our national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.

[English]

More than a century ago, Canada established the world's first national parks service. Today, Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and cultural areas on the planet. These include 46 national parks, 171 national historic sites, four national marine conservation areas and one national urban park. Parks Canada regularly earns international accolades for its conservation projects, educational programming and top-quality visitor experiences. Bill C-18 will support Parks Canada's efforts to deliver both conservation and accessibility, tasks the agency performs extraordinarily well.

Bill C-18 is the culmination of extensive consultations and represents considerable collaboration between the federal and provincial governments and the many stakeholders with their own perspectives and a strong commitment to making Rouge National Urban Park a success. I hope I will have a chance to talk to you about the number of meetings I have had with farmers, environmentalists and indigenous leaders, and I think we have come to a very careful, smart and practical solution to move forward.

The two other sets of amendments proposed in Bill C-18 also stand to benefit Canadians. One set would change the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park, located in northern Alberta. The change would support the establishment of the Garden River Indian reserve. In the process, it would honour a commitment made by the Government of Canada to the Little Red River Cree Nation. It would also support the national effort under way to achieve reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

[Translation]

All Canadians and all public agencies have roles to play in achieving this goal. It is worth noting that Parks Canada regularly works with more than 300 indigenous communities across Canada to conserve, restore and present components of our natural and cultural heritage. Last year, the agency established a reconciliation framework to further strengthen its partnerships with indigenous groups. More recently, Parks Canada introduced a funding program that supports the development of opportunities in indigenous tourism.

[English]

The third and final set of amendments in Bill C-18 involves the Parks Canada Agency Act. The amendments would modernize the rules that govern the New Parks and Historic Sites Account. The account funds the purchase of land or real property to establish, enlarge or designate a protected heritage area, such as a national park, a national historic site or national marine conservation area.

As it stands today, funds from the account can be used only for areas that are not fully operational. This restriction hinders the ability of Parks Canada to realize the full potential of several national parks, such as Bruce Peninsula in Ontario and Grasslands in Saskatchewan.

The proposed amendments would provide Parks Canada with the flexibility it needs to move quickly and acquire lands and heritage assets. The proposed amendments would also enable individual Canadians to contribute to the completion or expansion of heritage areas that are already operational.

[Translation]

As our nation continues to grow, our network of protected areas must grow with it. It is equally important that our treasured places serve as gateways to nature, cultural heritage, adventure and discovery. They must inspire us and share our stories, including the stories of indigenous peoples.

[English]

The legislation now before you aims to support these worthy goals and is clearly in the interest of all Canadians. Bill C-18 would enable Parks Canada and Canadians to make the most of Rouge National Urban Park. It would strengthen Canada's ability to expand and protect our natural, cultural and agricultural heritage, and it would further the process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

In closing, I would like to thank all the interested parties for coming together to find common ground. I'm pleased we were able to amend the act to include ecological integrity. A park, after all, is a place where the management priority should be managing for nature. Again, we will do this in a way that works closely with indigenous peoples who have used and protected these lands for thousands of years and who continue to have a very important role to play in sharing their stories and ensuring the protection of these places for future generations.

Finally, ecological integrity was also important for the province as a precondition to transferring what are arguably some of the most ecologically valuable lands in Ontario. And I also want to thank the farmers and the environmentalists who were able to see beyond their individual interests and understand that we are already working collectively on improving ecological integrity in the park through our more than 30 stewardship projects, and that maintaining and restoring ecological integrity is in all our interests. It also is in all our interests that we have working farms in the park, and that we can show to Canadians how food is made, because many have no idea.

[Translation]

It is now time to move forward and deliver, for nature and for all Canadians. I ask everyone in this committee to endorse Bill C-18 without amendment.

[English]

It is now time to move forward and deliver for nature and for all Canadians. I ask everyone on this committee to endorse Bill C-18 without amendment. I also ask that all of you join me on Sunday, June 18, which is also Father's Day, and come paddle the Rouge with me.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Madam Minister.

At the risk or repeating myself, the minister has to leave us at 5:45 p.m. Let us make sure that the questions we ask her are short, so that all senators can participate.

[English]

Senator Eggleton: I will put one question to the minister, and I will have questions later for the officials who I trust will stay beyond that time.

Minister, thank you for being here, and thank you for bringing about Bill C-18. I also thank the previous government for the work it did in helping to create the national urban park. One of the issues at that time, that this is helping to clear up, is the question of ecological integrity, which was a cornerstone of the provincial government's desire.

That, together with the Wood Buffalo amendment for the reserve and the agency act amendment, make this a happy bill.

I would like to ask you, minister, about a letter exchange I had with Mr. Chiarelli, the Minister of Infrastructure for the Province of Ontario. He said, in part, in that letter:

We are appreciative of the work the federal government has done to address Ontario's concerns related to environmental management protection of existing farming activities in the park.

You also addressed that question of the farming activities.

Tell me how the discussions have been going with the province, assuming that they're totally on side with Bill C-18, and will, in fact, now add their properties to make the park bigger and better.

Ms. McKenna: Thank you very much, Senator Eggleton, and thanks for working with us on this.

When I inherited this file, I saw a huge opportunity. The previous government had worked very hard and were able to create Rouge National Urban Park. The provincial government had made a condition of transferring lands that will double the size of the park. The precondition was ensuring ecological integrity, and the challenge, I believe, was a lack of trust between the farmers and the environmentalists. When I sat down with them, and I'm just a practical person, so I said, "I think we're not really that far apart.''

Ecological integrity is a first priority when it comes to the national parks. That's absolutely consistent and was the precondition of the Ontario government. At the same time, this is a national urban park, so it requires that you recognize that there are also farmers who have working farms in the park, which is a very good thing. As I said, it's an opportunity to showcase what farmers are doing and how food is produced. There are also indigenous communities who have been in the park for millennia.

Through the discussions, recognizing ecological integrity but also making a commitment to farmers who had been living on year-to-year leases — so imagine borrowing money with a lease that is only a year long — was a real challenge. We were able to come to an agreement that we could protect ecological integrity and still have working farms in the park, and that would result in the transfer of lands and would also mean that we were able to provide 30- year leases. Minister Duguid, the minister responsible, and I have met and had conversations. He is comfortable with where we're at, with the amendments proposed.

It's important to understand that this is a fine balance. If amendments are sought, I think it will be very difficult to find this balance that we have between the farmers who are concerned about their ability to continue to farm, and the environmentalists who want to ensure that we're consistent with the recognition of ecological integrity as a priority, and also with the indigenous peoples who we want to ensure that in the spirit of reconciliation we recognize the history and culture. I think we're in a good place and the Ontario government is very supportive.

Senator Patterson: I would like to ask more about this ecological integrity concept, minister. This committee considered the bill previously, and your predecessor attended and said ecological integrity won't work in an urban setting. Maybe I can quickly quote remarks that I'm sure were prepared by officials who are maybe still there:

The ecosystems have integrity when their native components remain intact, but because ecosystems are constantly changing, conservation strategies that have ecological integrity as their goal must also allow processes that reflect the ecosystem's natural conditions. That means such ecological processes as wildfires, flooding, and pest outbreaks would need to be allowed to run their natural course, which is not desirable and realistic in an urban setting. The park includes major highways, rail lines, hydro corridors, as well as farmland, and seven million people live on the Rouge's doorstep.

Applying in the legislation the concept of ecological integrity as we do in national parks would make it impossible to permit the type of sustainable farming that has been taking place in the Rouge for centuries.

How did you work out those challenges?

Ms. McKenna: It's absolutely consistent that you can maintain the standard of ecological integrity. Our parks are very different across the country. Clearly this is our first national urban park, which I think is extraordinarily exciting, but we will follow the similar process that we have done in other traditional national parks where the focus is on protection of natural resources and natural processes.

At the same time, we have farmers who are there. I sat with them and talked to them about this, and they are comfortable with the focus on ecological integrity because they feel they are doing sustainable farming. Through the management plan, we will have an opportunity to get into more of the details.

I have great faith in my parks folks here. The former head of Parks Canada, I appreciate his comments, but we worked very hard to come to a common understanding with the environmentalists and farmers.

To be honest, I think the discussion that was had before unfortunately came down to a lack of trust. Farmers thought they would not be able to farm. Environmentalists thought that farming practices would be inconsistent. I think there is a path forward and that we have found the fine balance.

In terms of the details, in the interests of time we could have Daniel speak or he could speak later.

The Deputy Chair: I think the officials will be staying with us.

Ms. McKenna: Yes, he's staying later and so can go into more detail then.

Senator Black: Minister, congratulations to you and your colleagues for this tremendous piece of work. To the points that have just been raised, it's obvious that this was a complicated transaction to navigate, and you have navigated it and I think Canadians will benefit.

I don't have a question but rather two quick points.

As a senator from Alberta, I'm pleased about the Wood Buffalo extension. That's the right thing for a lot of reasons. We don't need to get into it, but I think it's the right thing and I appreciate that very much.

Second, this model of an urban park, when we studied it before I raised the concept — and I'd like to leave with you — that perhaps we could look at Stanley Park, or Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, or the river valley in Edmonton. There are some magnificent physical assets in our cities that we want to ensure are protected basically at all costs for our children and grandchildren.

So minister, thank you.

Ms. McKenna: Thank you very much, Senator Black.

I certainly agree with you that Wood Buffalo, the excision, meeting our commitment to the community is extraordinarily important.

As we move forward, we have made a commitment to expanding our parks and protected areas, so you're right that we can look at other opportunities. This is a model for the world. We need more people to get to our parks because it is good for our health, our physical fitness. It is a great way to spend time with your family. Many new Canadians and communities and individuals who are less fortunate have not had the opportunity to get to parks, so I think this is a great opportunity.

Senator Seidman: Thank you very much, minister, for being with us today.

I would like to ask you about a letter that our committee received from Jim Robb, General Manager of Friends of the Rouge Watershed. I'm sure you're familiar with it as well. While he's extremely happy with the legislation, he would like to amend it. He says we're leaving something important out of it. He would like to amend the proposed legislation to include a pre-existing Ontario Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park and Watershed Conservation Plans. He states in his letter: "Ontario's pre-existing Conservation Plans represent significant public investments and interests which warrant explicit support and impetus within . . .'' the Rouge National Park.

In supporting that request, we received a letter from Brad Duguid, the MPP for Scarborough Centre. I'd like to hear your reaction to that particular request.

Ms. McKenna: Thank you very much, and I want to thank Jim Robb for his work over the decades with Friends of the Rouge Watershed. He's worked extraordinarily hard, and we really appreciate that.

As I said, in life you have to be practical and find a balance. There was some concern with some of the proposals as to how far they went and whether you needed to get into some of the details at this point. A park management plan will be negotiated, and there is an opportunity to do that at that point.

This fine balance we have between environmentalists and farmers is extraordinarily important, and I would be concerned that if we go too far — and as I said, I believe that any amendments would be tipping the balance that we have — it would mean that we wouldn't get to the place where we could expand the park and at the same time have working farms in there.

I also have a copy of the correspondence from Minister Duguid. I have spoken to him. He supports the bill without the amendment, recognizing that a lot of work was put in by a lot of folks to get to where we're at.

The Deputy Chair: Could I clarify one thing? You referred to Senator Duguid.

Ms. McKenna: If I said senator, I meant minister.

The Deputy Chair: I think Minister Duguid says exactly the opposite.

Senator Seidman: Well, if we could just look at Brad Duguid's letter, he does indeed support the request. It indicates clear legislative support for the implementation of Ontario's pre-existing green belt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Rouge National Urban Park and Watershed Conservation Plans. I guess what you're saying is you've had ongoing correspondence with him beyond this.

This letter was addressed to you. Actually, I'm looking to find a date. That's why I'm sounding a little strange here. But it is addressed to you, Minister McKenna. Have you had other correspondence with him?

Ms. McKenna: Sorry, I should clarify.

The minister responsible is actually Minister Chiarelli. I worked with Minister Duguid because he cares greatly about this. In the letter from Minister Chiarelli dated March 8, he clarifies that:

Minister Duguid confirmed publicly that with the amendments proposed in Bill C-18 there were no longer any barriers for a recommendation to Cabinet to proceed with a transfer of Ontario's lands into this park.

I also spoke to him about where we were at. I know he expressed some interest in other amendments, but I just clarified with him that I thought those would be extraordinarily challenging and he agreed that even without those amendments he was supportive.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Wetston: Thank you for coming today. I appreciate your comments.

I'm going to mention something quite general but I'd like your comments on it. I live in Toronto. I'm a Toronto senator, as is Senator Eggleton, and I appreciate what you're attempting to achieve here.

From my perspective, living in Toronto, which is a great Canadian city, has tremendous advantages, but there are some disadvantages. The disadvantages might be public transportation, crowds, accessibility, noise or the inability to access nature. That's a very important matter, I think. Not everybody who lives in Toronto or the greater GTA has a cottage, access to a lake, the ability to wander in the woods, to breathe the fresh air or to get to the outdoors. I'm not making a speech now, but I want you to understand where I'm coming from. I'll only have one question.

I was brought up on Cape Breton Island. I was 10 minutes from nature at any moment, so I appreciate the value of it. I'm very supportive of what you're trying to do here. I think it's really important, particularly a national urban park in the GTA.

Could you tell me a bit more about what was in your mind with respect to supporting and advancing this initiative?

Second, could you give me a sense of the economics of the Rouge National Urban Park? I'd like to have a better understanding about that because I haven't seen much on it.

Ms. McKenna: Thank you very much. That was extremely poetic and that's certainly how I feel about parks.

When I inherited this file, I had Conservatives who came to me and said, "We can get this done. You're a new government. You don't carry any of the baggage. Why don't you try to do that?''

I'm someone who believes greatly in the importance of getting to nature. I'm from Hamilton. I don't think people necessarily think of nature when they think of Hamilton, but I also lived in Toronto like you. I went to the University of Toronto and I saw many young people in particular who never had a chance to go to a park. So when I heard about Rouge National Urban Park and had a chance to visit, I was astonished. My view was we need to be creative and create greater opportunities for people to get to parks.

As I said in my introductory remarks, when you get to one park, you start loving and understanding the natural beauty of Canada. For 2017, what greater gift than expanding Rouge National Urban Park? As I said, 7 million Canadians live within one hour by public transit. It's accessible, affordable and a great place to go spend the day. So that was certainly something that was in my mind.

In terms of the economics, I'm not sure if you mean economics in terms of how much money is involved with supporting the expansion of the park. I can give you that information. There is $170 million investment over 10 years and a $10 million investment afterwards.

It's a funny thing being responsible for parks because parks cost money in some ways. People done realize that I'm I think the third-largest asset holder in the government — pieces of the Trans-Canada Highway, bridges, canals. So it's very expensive to maintain hose assets. To maintain parks is expensive, but the benefit goes far beyond the costs associated with maintaining those assets.

You can talk about the hard economics like gateway communities. For many parks, indigenous communities are right there and the park is the only game in town in terms of money and small businesses. But there are benefits far beyond that. There are health benefits. There are climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits. I'm looking at how we can do a better job accounting for what the real value of parks is.

There are the dollars and cents, if you're a bean counter. That's not very nice to say. I'm a lawyer, so I can say things like that. Then there's the broader value when you actually consider how important it is for people.

We're doing things where you have walks for patients who have mental health issues. Getting out to nature has huge benefits to keep people out of the hospital. I'm trying to think more strategically because I have to talk to the finance minister about the broader benefit of parks, because in some ways we are so fortunate in this country.

[Translation]

Senator Galvez: It is difficult to disagree with this bill. It is so perfect. My congratulations to you. It was one of your projects and it is going to become a reality. It is definitely quite the challenge to bring together around a table a variety of participants whose interests may conflict.

I do not have a question for you, but I do have a comment about maintenance.

[English]

About how people are going to understand each other over time. Indigenous people have their activities. I don't know if they're going to be happy to receive 7 million people from the city, but they will evolve and they will see.

I was wondering if you have thought about a model to research and understand the effects of living together, farms and indigenous people, but also the urban people who will go and all the beneficial effects. Later you can put the numbers on the beans that some senators want to know about.

[Translation]

Ms. McKenna: Perhaps some interests do conflict, but my observation is that, when people come together and talk to each other, each sees how they can be part of the park. For example, I know that you are very passionate about indigenous people. As I said, there was a presentation of Huron-Wendat artifacts and we wondered how we could have a permanent exhibition in order to showcase the history of that people. Jane Philpott made the request to the Canadian Museum of History.

I believe that there is a lot of interest in talking about a part of our history that we do not know about. I think we have ideas to promote the agricultural community, and, with the environmentalists, we will certainly be able to organize more demonstrations and to work to restore the wetlands. It is a dream opportunity to be able to accomplish a lot of projects together.

[English]

Senator Lang: Welcome, Madam Minister.

As you know, this is a bill that has been dealt with before in this committee. I want to go back to Senator Patterson's questions with respect to the ecological integrity of a park and the definition of "ecological integrity.'' It seems kind of odd that we had a minister of the environment, just a number of years ago, come forward and say that the concept of ecological integrity as it applies to Canada's national parks is simply unachievable in an urban setting, and now you're saying it is possible to do that.

They describe the ecological processes as wildfires, flooding and pest outbreaks, which would need to be allowed to run their natural course, which is not desirable and realistic in an urban setting. It seems to me that the biggest concern I would have, if I lived there, would be of a wildfire if I were a farmer. Is that wildfire going to be fought, or is it going to have to adhere to the guidelines of ecological integrity?

Have you changed the rules so that a wildfire could be fought in an ecological integrity setting, as defined? If so, where has that rule been changed? If it hasn't, with the passage of this bill, are there going to be concerns about insurance for the people who are living in this urban setting?

Ms. McKenna: Thank you very much. I can't speak for the former minister. I have tough files all the time where I have to find a balance, and I think, on climate change, we've shown that we can bring people together.

In terms of farming, I don't see it as being inconsistent in the sense that farmers are great stewards of the lands. They want healthy, natural environments because they produce food. They want to protect their animals. There are ways that we can work together to achieve the ecological conditions that we want.

I will say that there are many national parks where there are no wildfires. Prince Edward Island would be an example.

I think that this is an opportunity to work together in a collaborative way, clearly understanding the situation of farmers there. As I said, they were on living leases year to year, which meant that they couldn't even borrow money. It was very challenging. So I think this is a very practical approach.

Daniel, I don't think we have a lot of time, but do you want to say something about wildfires?

Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency: For example, in Point Pelee, we had a fire very recently. Almost the same if not identical language applies there, and we were out fighting it the moment that we found it, as we do with the vast majority of fires, certainly all of them that would cause danger to any significant property or to people. So in those conditions, if they arose, we'd fight the fire.

Ms. McKenna: If it's okay, I would just add that the farmers are supportive of what we're doing. They think this is a good thing. I think that, having worked with them, they believe that this gives them the certainty they need. They have the confidence in Parks Canada folks.

Senator Griffin: Thank you for being here today. I just found out lately that you're my member of Parliament. If I had lived in Ottawa permanently, that would have been the case, but we Prince Edward Island senators live in Prince Edward Island.

Ms. McKenna: I hope I'm not being asked to comment on that.

Senator Griffin: A year and a half ago, I visited the Rouge. I was very happy to have the opportunity. I'm delighted to see this bill and to have it before this committee at this stage.

When I was on the Nature Canada board, the board had concern about the protection of ecological integrity and what it might mean for the rest of the parks system. The big concern at that point was: Would this weaken the context of ecological integrity in the rest of Canada's national parks system? I'm glad to see that that has been addressed, and I'm hoping you feel it has also been adequately addressed.

Ms. McKenna: I would not recommend this if I didn't believe that it was adequately addressed.

As I say, our parks differ across the country. We have mountain parks where we have ski hills. I think that you need to adapt to different circumstances while keeping the primacy of ecological integrity, and, through management plans, you can come up with solutions that protect ecological integrity but are tailored to a particular park.

Senator Griffin: Thank you. Great work.

The Deputy Chair: Minister, can we have five more minutes of your time?

Ms. McKenna: Sure. As long as I don't miss the vote, or else I'm in big trouble with the Prime Minister.

The Deputy Chair: In some of the correspondence that we did get from people who want to see amendments, they make reference to the farms whereby they seem to be inhabited — including some homes — by friends of the family, friends of the province, insiders, in other words. The rent they're paying is below market and, therefore, not fair. They don't think it's appropriate. I'm not sure it's a jealousy issue. But they give us actual numbers of what they're paying per acre, and it does seem to be below market. I know there were one-year rentals. Could you comment on that? Is there something there, or is it just somebody unhappy with the situation?

Ms. McKenna: I'm going to defer that question to Daniel.

Mr. Watson: We're working very closely with all of the lessees. There will be over 400 leases at the end of that process. We are working very closely with them. Obviously, ensuring we have appropriate rents is something that will be very important to us. Certainly, people will have a federal landlord, where the lands are transferred, where previously they had a different landlord. That's one of the reasons we're spending so much time making sure we get these leases right.

The Deputy Chair: So you're going to assure us, in spite of a 30-year lease, which you made reference to earlier, that the rent they're paying is market. You're convinced that it's fair, without any insider preference to anybody.

Mr. Watson: I can assure you that there will be no insider preference to anybody on this.

The Deputy Chair: The last question goes to Senator Eggleton.

Minister, you made a comment earlier, and I have to warn you that he is a professional bean counter, being a professional CGA.

Ms. McKenna: Remember, I said I was a lawyer.

Senator Eggleton: You're letting me ask another question?

The Deputy Chair: Yes, second round.

Senator Eggleton: I just want to explore the political end of things.

Jim Robb had asked specifically for an amendment, subsection 6(3). Subsection (1), the one that talks about ecological integrity, is intended to support and complement the implementation of pre-existing Ontario Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park and Watershed Conservation Plans, which Brad Duguid referred to in his letter, but he did it on MPP stationery, not as the minister because the minister is actually Chiarelli.

Chiarelli, in his letter, does say, at the bottom: "I wish to bring to your attention, as you may not be aware, that Ontario has undertaken a coordinated land use planning review of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. Details of Ontario's consultation process on the land use planning review and proposed changes of these plans can be found . . . .,'' He indicates the website.

It sounds like this is a changing situation and that perhaps, buying into this recommendation, we're not sure we're getting what he's asking for. Could you just comment on that?

Ms. McKenna: In terms of the proposed amendment, I think there are two things. One I've already spoken about is the fact that I think it would really negatively impact on the collaboration that we've achieved between the environmentalists and the farming communities.

Our view is that it would also weaken the principle of ecological integrity. We now have references within the amendments that give greater certainty on the principle of ecological integrity. That's a principle, as we've already spoken about, used in our national parks. It has a certain meaning, and we believe that introducing references to provincial policies in federal legislation in fact removes the clarity that we're working hard to achieve in terms of ecological integrity and weakens that focus.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: Madam Minister, I think you have to leave us. Thank you, Madam Minister.

We now lead into the second part of this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Welcome to you all. We continue our consideration of Bill C-18, assisted by officials from the Parks Canada Agency, who will be answering our questions.

[English]

Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much. I'm happy to see the officials here, one of whom I saw recently, Pam Veinotte, who took me on a tour to show me the park as it is today and also talk about some of the plans. I'm really glad we have her there. I think she knows every blade of grass in the place and certainly has a lot of passion about it.

Sorry to single you out, but I just had to say that.

Exactly how big a park is this? For some time, the people in the area talk about 100 square kilometres. Tell me how much it is right now, how much it will be when the province adds on, and how much more do you see coming along as we go further down the pipe?

One of the sets of figures I used in my second reading speech I hope is true. I said that the Rouge National Urban Park will be 19 times bigger than Stanley Park, if you can believe it; 22 times bigger than Central Park in New York; and, in my own city, 50 times bigger than High Park. Tell me, is all that valid?

Mr. Watson: I can assure you he's obviously very familiar with numbers and those are the right figures. On March 31, the park stood at 19.1 square kilometres and then, with the transfer of lands that took place within the federal family, on April 1 it doubled in size to about 39 square kilometres. With the addition of lands that we're talking about, which will be possible after these amendments are passed and we proceed with the Province of Ontario, as they've indicated, we will go to 79.1 square kilometres. As you pointed out, it will be 22 times bigger than Central Park and 50 times bigger than High Park in Toronto. I can't swear to Stanley Park.

Senator Wetston: I have a couple of questions about the leases. How many did you mention for Rouge?

Mr. Watson: We figure it will be about 400.

Senator Wetston: I'm not asking you about the negotiation of these leases, but are they fair market value? What are they in general terms? What is the approach you take with respect to these leases?

Mr. Watson: Well, we certainly take a look at the fair return for Canadians, given that these parks will be an asset held on behalf of Canadians. We look at the requirements around the park. We want a viable agricultural community within the park, so pricing has to reflect those things. It's a space between those two goalposts. It's that which is fair on behalf of Canadians and that which allows an economically viable farm operation between. To go to a previous question, there will be no favour or anything that would advantage it.

Senator Wetston: What about non-farms, like hotels, resorts and other things that might exist on other parkland? Do any exist?

Mr. Watson: Not in the Rouge National Urban Park.

Senator Wetston: What about other parks?

Mr. Watson: In other parks, people may be familiar with the iconic sites in our mountain parks. Those facilities are there. Some of them are historic arrangements that go back a significant period of time; others are much more recent. If you've seen Jasper, Banff or some of these other places, we have a range of arrangements.

The Deputy Chair: I'm going to follow up with a supplementary. I think in Rouge you have homes and farmland. Am I correct in that?

Pam Veinotte, Field Unit Superintendent, Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada Agency: We have a combination of agricultural farm operations. We have people living in the Rouge in leased residences. One goal is to have a lived-in landscape. That's one of the beauties of a place like the Rouge, namely that you can have a vibrant community and you really want to have that rural sense of community.

We also have a few commercial leases. They're tiny, for example dog boarding and things of that nature. There's also a children's camp.

The Deputy Chair: Let's say you have a home. How do you proceed to establish the rent? Do you get the home appraised to establish its value?

Ms. Veinotte: Obviously we're still working out all the details, as Daniel said, but a common practice is that we also use the Canadian Consumer Price Index to help us with appropriate increases in rent as leases are renewed.

The Deputy Chair: Let's say a home is worth $500,000. What would the rent be?

Ms. Veinotte: I can't identify that at the moment. Remember that we are in the process of assuming the leases that are coming from all of the landholders currently. They've been coming from different levels of government.

Someone mentioned complexity. One of the complexities is moving the current leases that we're assuming to the federal structure and also to the consistent policies that we've had in Parks Canada but that we are also looking at very closely with the Rouge.

Those details are all in the process, but we're obviously concentrated now on the transfer of land and making sure all of those residences, those farm operations, come to us. Then we're able to finalize our strategy and start implementing and moving the leases to Parks Canada federal leases.

The Deputy Chair: I presume some will say it's unreasonable, they don't agree with the rent and then they'll leave, right? Is that a concern to you?

Ms. Veinotte: Well, if you're talking about residential leases —

The Deputy Chair: Or farmland.

Ms. Veinotte: Some farmers and their families have been on their property for generations. Regarding the residential leases —

The Deputy Chair: Even the farmers, though, are there as tenants. Am I correct in saying that?

Ms. Veinotte: There are mostly tenants on the farming operations. There are a few private farm operations that are outside the boundaries of the park.

The residential group is a mix. You will find, as you would probably find in a lot of locations, an individual who has accepted a year-to-year lease and stayed for some time. There are others who come and go. We'll see a mix of those even into the future, especially in terms of the residential leases.

Senator Patterson: We had this big debate about the ecological integrity when we last looked at the park. Everyone's in favour, of course, of this park and making it work. The Rouge National Urban Park Act currently requires the minister to consider the health of the park's ecosystems in the management of the park. That was passed. That's in place.

Now Bill C-18 proposes to make, and this is an obligation of the minister, maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, the first priority of the minister when considering all aspects of the management of the park.

Could you help me here? What's the difference between protecting the ecosystem health required by the current legislation versus making restoration of ecological integrity the first priority? And how is this going to change the management of the park?

Mr. Watson: Thank you very much for the question.

Of course, in reading the legislation, it will be read in its entirety. There are three elements within the legislation, and a fourth part, which may help answer your question.

In the first instance, we have to read the preamble of the act, which is pretty critical. It specifically mentions agriculture and talks about the purpose of the act being to encourage sustainable farming practices. It's the second-to- last part of the preamble, which then conditions the rest of the bill.

The purpose of the act is set out in section 4. That's also critical, the establishment piece, which mentions that the Rouge National Urban Park "is established for the purposes of protecting and presenting, for current and future generations, the natural cultural heritage of the Park and its diverse landscapes, promoting a vibrant farming community . . . ." I've picked and chosen bits, for brevity, but the entirety of the act needs to be read in light of those two things.

Two other pieces in the bill are important. Section 13 makes it clear that the minister has the authority to the set out leases. Section 19 is absolutely explicit in saying that nothing in the previous two sections, which have limitations, stop the minister from having leases for agricultural purposes.

In addition to those things, for the first time, 30-year leases will be available to people who have been going year after year, for a generation. The fact that those four elements will be in the legislation — that there will be 30-year leases instead of one, and that the area we will be able to protect as a result of all these activities will be nearly four times the size we started out with just a few months ago — will be a significant advance for all concerned, both for those who wish to see things protected and for those who wish to continue to have a viable agricultural community in the park.

Senator Patterson: What I was trying to get at is this: You have ecosystem health as a requirement of the minister: to consider the health of the park's ecosystems in the management of the park. I call it ecosystem health. Then the minister, as a first priority, is required to make maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity the first priority.

What's the difference between ecosystem health and ecological integrity and how do those work together? Will that change the management of the park?

Mr. Watson: It will ensure that in the many considerations the minister has to take — and it doesn't say that it would be the only consideration that the minister has to take; it says it's the first. The rest of the act continues to say that all of the same types of considerations need to be taken into account as previously.

The first consideration taken into account would be ecological integrity, but it does not eliminate the requirement to read the rest of the act and to act on it. The management planning process is robust across the entire national park system. It will be robust in the Rouge National Urban Park system. In fact, this language would make it consistent with what we have done everywhere across the country, from Quttinirpaaq in the Far North, to Gwaii Haanas in the Pacific, to Sable Island in the Atlantic, and everywhere in between.

The Deputy Chair: I'll ask a supplementary on that, if I could. We all have the same question. We use two words: ecological integrity. Is that a defined term? I checked it on Google. I don't see a defined term. Is there some agreement in the Parks Canada Act?

Mr. Watson: I will defer to my colleague, who has found the specific spot.

The Deputy Chair: It's in the definition part of the act.

Ms. Veinotte: That is right. It is part of Bill C-18, which adds the definition of "ecological integrity'' to the interpretation section of the act.

It's a term that has been defined. It is part of the Canada National Parks Act. In fact, in the Canada National Parks Act, it's section 8(2). This would make it section 2 of the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the definition. It is commonly understood and commonly used terminology.

As both the minister and Daniel have said, this brings consistency in terms of definition. It is clear in the direction given to the minister, and to us in Parks Canada, to us managing the park.

The Deputy Chair: I will read the definition, for everyone's information:

Ecological integrity means, with respect to a park, a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.

What does that mean? Sometimes I wonder whether people don't agree because they're not sure what it means.

Mr. Watson: What I can say is that the language is identical except to the extent that it's modified to apply only to the Rouge in this particular act, as in the Canada National Parks Act. It is something that's been tested in the courts over time and something we built an entire regime about.

As with different statutes, there will at different points in time be tests around some of the edges of it. I might be wrong on this, but I think it has been there as far back as the 1930s. It is a very old piece of legislation.

The Deputy Chair: Among the experts, it is a defined term within a specific meaning?

Mr. Watson: Certainly within the Canada National Parks Act.

Senator Eggleton: I have a supplementary on the definition. Senator Patterson pointed out that the previous bill said "consider.'' But "consider'' is not quite the level of priority that is given in this bill. "Consider'' means that you have to consider it, but you have to consider other things; and you can reject giving it priority. It's consideration; isn't that what it really amounts to? This gives it a higher order?

Mr. Watson: It means that in the list of things the minister would be required to consider, the first item that would need to be considered would be ecological integrity. But it does not stop the minister from being required to fulfill her obligation to address the other obligations she has under the act.

Senator Eggleton: It was also previously the stumbling block for the province, the fact that it wasn't given that priority, and a stumbling block to getting 44 square kilometres of property.

Senator Lang: I would like to move to another area, which is the question of the establishment of the proposed "New Parks and Historic Sites Account'' for new protected heritage areas.

An internal audit was just released that has to do with Ontario waterways. I believe you're familiar with it because you would have ordered that internal audit.

I'm asking this for two reasons. Maybe you can comment on the results of this audit. At the same time, what steps are you taking to ensure these things don't happen with respect to this account we're setting up?

For everybody's edification, on pages 13 and 14 of that internal audit, the audit team observed 35 nonconforming contracts out of 68:

. . . contracts were identified in the STAR financial system as competitive although we found no evidence to support this.

As well, auditors "could not find evidence of competition in the files for 13 contracts identified as competitive,'' and 52.9 per cent of contracts were therefore established after the fact of payment.

I would like you to comment on why that would happen and what steps you are taking to change it. When we set up this account, can you assure us that will not occur?

Mr. Watson: I'm happy to speak to that. That is an audit I had asked for — at least my office asked for it. I think it was my predecessor who triggered it. I was very happy to get those results. We ask for those things to make sure we're staying the course and, if there are any errors, that we are able to rectify them. We found a number that we had to deal with.

I was comforted by the fact that, in many instances, what had happened is that people simply failed to put on the file information they had and in other instances they hadn't. Some of the questions about the contracting were around places where we were having people cutting the grass around the locks, and we didn't actually have the contracts in place when people did the work. So we've gone through and remedied those things.

That one was a very different type of account than this one. In the old days, if I can use that term, we would simply create the entirety of a park and then open it when it was completely ready.

There are a number of parks that we have today for which it will take a long time to assemble the land. Grasslands National Park is a good example of that, where we were able to assemble a certain amount of land to put the park together, but we knew we wanted to acquire more land so we could protect more land.

The philosophy behind the way the account was originally designed was that you would have done necessary to pull together all the land you needed, and then you would open the park and would be in a distinct phase of operating it.

Once you open the park, you can no longer use the park establishment account to buy new land. I liken it to an on/ off switch versus a dimmer switch. The way we have it today, it's on or off. Once you open the park, you can no longer use the park establishment account to buy new land.

What we'll do is go to a dimmer switch, which is to say that as long as what you're doing is buying new land to increase the size of the park, you can go into the park establishment account. You cannot go into it for regular operations, but only for the purposes of establishing new parts of a park.

Senator Lang: There are two elements here: the accounting and the question of being accountable. What steps are you taking as an agency to make sure that type of thing doesn't happen again?

Mr. Watson: Again, the types of contracts that were referred to in the waterways audit are not the types of contracts you would have here. They are different types of agreements. Here, we would be purchasing land for the establishment of parks. It is not a service or construction contract of the type you would have for the waterways.

On the waterways audit, my chief financial officer and I have set out some very clear directions. I have a vice- president who's responsible for most of those major projects. He has developed a series of directives and training for staff who need to go through it to make sure they understand very clearly their responsibilities. We have had a great and long conversation about this at the executive management table to make sure that each and every part of the agency is fully aware of their responsibilities.

Senator Lang: That's throughout Parks Canada?

Mr. Watson: Throughout the entire agency.

The Deputy Chair: When you read the Auditor General's report — and I know we're not personally involved, and auditors always look for perfection that it never exists — but it does not give you a good feeling relative to the commitment of your administration — there is a lot of sloppy stuff: agreements not dated or dated after the fact, documents signed after the contract is completed, et cetera.

I know this one is different, but if it's a culture of sloppiness, we have to make sure we put an end to it. I guess you're saying you will, but the message has to be loud and clear to make sure it doesn't occur again, because it doesn't show very well.

Mr. Watson: That's putting it much more diplomatically than I put it in my minutes.

Senator Lang: Could you provide us with the directives that you have given in respect to rectifying the situation? It is of concern.

When you come from a small community and you start sole-sourcing contracts, that can lead to some very significant social interaction within a community. I would strongly recommend, unless it's absolutely necessary, that you ensure there is an open and transparent system in place so that everyone knows the rules of the game.

[Translation]

The Deputy Chair: Mr. Watson, Ms. Veinotte, Ms. Grasham, thank you very much for joining us today. Your presence has enabled us to obtain answers to our questions. As you were able to see, we were curious and we had a number of questions. You did your job, I feel, so thank you again. As there are no further questions, I declare the meeting adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)