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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much, minister, for being with us
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
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
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
Senator Seidman: Thank you.
Senator Wetston: Thank you for coming today. I appreciate your
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.)