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

Issue 25 - Evidence - March 10, 2015

OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to which was referred Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park, met this day at 5:03 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Richard Neufeld (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Richard Neufeld. I represent the province of British Columbia in the Senate and I am chair of this committee.

I would like to welcome honourable senators, any members of the public with us in the room and viewers across the country who are watching on television. As a reminder to those watching, these committee hearings are open to the public and also available via webcast on the website. You may also find more information on the schedule of witnesses on the website under "Senate committees."

Honourable senators, Senator Enverga has made a written declaration of private interest regarding Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park. In accordance with rule 15-7, the declaration shall be recorded in the minutes of the proceedings of the committee. If any of you wish to see it, you can contact the clerk.

Senator Eggleton: He is the sponsor of the bill. Does that change his status?

The Chair: He's not the sponsor of the bill anymore.

Senator Eggleton: Who is the sponsor of the bill?

The Chair: Senator Eaton.

Senator Eggleton: Okay.

The Chair: I would ask senators around the table to introduce themselves. To begin, I will introduce the deputy chair, Senator Paul Massicotte from Quebec.

Senator Eggleton: Art Eggleton, senator from Toronto.

Senator MacDonald: Michael MacDonald from Nova Scotia.


Senator Ringuette: Pierrette Ringuette from New Brunswick.


Senator Sibbeston: Nick Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories.

Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec.

Senator Black: Doug Black from Alberta.

Senator Eaton: Nicky Eaton from Ontario.

The Chair: I would like to introduce our staff beginning with the clerk Lynn Gordon, and our Library of Parliament analyst is Sam Banks.

Bill C-40 An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park was introduced on behalf of the Minister of the Environment in the House of Commons on June 13, 2014. The bill was passed by the House of Commons on January 26, 2015, and following second reading in the Senate, it was referred to our committee on February 19.

I am pleased to welcome the following witnesses appearing before us today. We have Ian Buchanan, Manager, Natural Heritage and Forestry, Regional Municipality of York; from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society we have Éric Hébert-Daly, Director and Alison Woodley, National Director, Parks Program; and from Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Jim Robb, General Manager.

Thank you to each of you for being here. Mr. Buchanan you can proceed, followed by Mr. Éric Hébert-Daly and Ms. Woodley, then Mr. Robb. We will then open the floor for questions and answers. The floor is yours, sir.

Ian Buchanan, Manager, Natural Heritage and Forestry, The Regional Municipality of York: Good afternoon and thank you, Mr. Chair. Honourable senators, I am honoured to be here today to provide a municipal York Region perspective on Bill C-40 respecting the Rouge national urban park.

My name is Ian Buchanan. I manage the natural heritage and forestry programs for the Regional Municipality of York in the environmental promotion and protection branch of environmental services.

I would first like to commend the Government of Canada for its vision, strong leadership and innovation in the commitment to Bill C-40 and advancing the management of a unique park, the first of its kind in Canada, Rouge national urban park.

I have worked as a professional ecologist in the Rouge watershed and surrounding area for more than 25 years. I worked with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in York and Durham regions as an ecologist, supervisor and provincial lead for the GTA fish and wildlife management. I have worked restoring the Rouge watershed for decades, and have been involved with the Rouge Park since its inception. I also chaired the Rouge Park natural heritage committee, participated on the Rouge Park Alliance and am York Region's designate on the Rouge national urban park landholders table.

Having been actively involved with environmental decision-making in this urbanizing landscape, I have well-grounded experience with the existing legislative and policy frameworks, environmental challenges and complex realities. I am also aware of the significant opportunities that exist for the protection and restoration of our rich natural heritage within and around the Rouge national urban park.

York Region council is a long-time supporter of the Rouge Park, and is very encouraged by Bill C-40 and the steps taken by Parks Canada to advance park management on a collaborative and integrated platform. Through this process, Parks Canada has demonstrated their environmental leadership with an in-depth and balanced understanding of the complex of issues, which were barriers to the advancement of the park in the past.

Regional council has stated four priorities of paramount concern when considering the advancement of the Rouge national urban park. The first priority is respecting growth management, ensuring sustainable growth with livable communities, viable businesses and economic development opportunities.

The second priority is infrastructure delivery, protection of existing and future infrastructure which provides critical services and supports sustainable growth.

The third priority is agriculture. Thirty-eight per cent of lands in York Region are devoted to farming. Protecting agriculture and providing new opportunities for near urban markets is key.

The fourth priority is a sustainable natural environment. Sixty-nine per cent of lands in York Region fall within Greenbelt Plan or Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan areas, with 58 per cent being governed by restrictive agricultural or environmental policies. Protecting and restoring habitats and linkages, as reflected in our proactive regional official plan, natural environment policies and aligned with our greening strategy, on-the-ground action is priority.

I will now focus specifically on the importance of growth management and infrastructure as building blocks to sustainable communities and economic vitality.

The GTA is the fastest-growing region in Ontario with a projected population of 8.9 million people by 2036. York region and our nine area municipal partners is part of a much-broader economic region where over 6 million people work and play; 1.1 million people call York region home and I'm one of them. In accordance with the province's Places to Grow Act, our population will increase to 1.8 million by 2041. Today almost one third of our residents reside in the city of Markham on the park's doorstep. For many of them, the park is effectively in their backyards.

Rouge national urban park has been established within an existing urban area; 68 per cent of the park is in York region. The park represents 16 per cent of the land base of the city of Markham. The park stretches from Lake Ontario northwards across the former Lake Iroquois shoreline as a wide band along the eastern part of the city of Toronto and York region to the southern edge of the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

This area is strategically important for fish and wildlife habitat and ecological connectivity, but it is also strategically important for urban areas and the east-west movement of goods and services, all of which are reliant on above-and below-ground infrastructure.

Along with our investments in restoring natural heritage, the region has invested billions of dollars in critical infrastructure. This includes transportation corridors and water/waste water infrastructure, including the York Durham sanitary sewer and the southeast collector system, underneath and adjacent to the park. These assets and their ongoing maintenance support healthy communities, economic vitality and are part of the equation of environmental sustainability.

We are very pleased that along with the natural environment, cultural and agricultural protection there are provisions for supporting growth and protecting existing and future infrastructure, which are clear in Bill C-40, and are also captured in the Rouge national urban park concept plan 2012, land transfers, memorandums of agreements and the current draft management plan.

It is very encouraging that Bill C-40 presents clear direction in key areas, specifically clauses 4 and 6 include park establishment and management, recognizing the unique setting and reflecting a multipurpose focus, including natural and cultural heritage, farming and an emphasis on healthy ecosystems. We feel that this is the right balance. Parks Canada, municipalities and partners have demonstrated a commitment to protecting and restoring the natural environment. York region recently invested $6.5 million in the park creating wetlands, grasslands, forests and trails to connect people with nature.

Clauses 8 to 11 have the advisory committee and management plan focus supporting collaborative decision making. Clauses 12 and 16 allow for clearing and disposition of lands in support of maintenance and installation of infrastructure in alignment with provincial requirements; municipal official plans; and master planning, servicing and transportation strategies.

Parks Canada has a demonstrated track record of managing the natural environment through its world-renowned network of parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas. It has been over two years since Parks Canada took the helm of a park in trouble. Lack of leadership, direction and a lack of resources crippled the ability of the park to move forward. Parks Canada has committed resources and clearly defined the park. They have begun to build a capable team. They have built strong relationships, engaged stakeholders and are well positioned to understand the complexity of issues. The draft Rouge national urban park management plan has captured this context and puts forward sound principles, strategies and objectives to define, manage, protect and restore Canada's first national urban park.

Last fall the Region of York signed the memorandum of agreement respecting the assembly of lands for the Rouge national urban park. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Regional Municipality of Durham, City of Markham, City of Toronto and the City of Pickering have all signed the memorandum of agreement and all are eager for the park to become a reality.

In closing, Bill C-40 provides clear direction and a strong legislative foundation for the park, including providing more focused environmental protection than has ever existed in the Rouge's history. It enables environmental protection and restoration; it supports farming while providing for growth management and infrastructure.

The legislation is sensitive to the urban context and promotes a collaborative and integrated approach. The Rouge national urban park is a unique opportunity, and Parks Canada is positioned to realize its extraordinary potential. People and healthy communities are an integral part of this ecosystem. The overall balancing of interest is part of the success and future of this one-of-a-kind urban park, and it is time for us to move forward.

Éric Hébert-Daly, Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to share with the committee our thoughts on Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park. My name is Éric Hébert-Daly and I'm the National Executive Director at CPAWS.

Since our creation about 50 years ago, CPAWS has played a key role in the establishment of over two thirds of Canada's protected areas. We have chapters in 13 regions across the country in nearly every province and territory, including our CPAWS Wildlands League chapter in Toronto, as well as the national office in Ottawa. We have over 60,000 supporters across the country, and we work collaboratively with governments, industry, First Nations and others to conserve Canada's natural heritage.

Over the last five years, CPAWS has celebrated and welcomed several new federal park initiatives, most notably the sixfold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in 2009 and the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area in B.C. in 2010.

Today we are here to discuss a very different kind of park, the creation of Canada's first national urban park in the Greater Toronto Area. CPAWS has been supportive of the idea of a national urban park in the Rouge from its very inception. We see it as a remarkable opportunity to better protect a very special, natural valley right in Canada's biggest urban area and to engage and connect people with nature.

Let me also be clear that CPAWS has recognized from the beginning that farming is and will continue to be an important part of this park. We believe that farming can contribute to nature conservation, and that at the same time major conservation can contribute to farming, and that we as conservationists share a common interest with farmers, that of keeping urban development from these lands. We often remark that the opportunity to create this national urban park is actually due to the fact that farmers and farms have kept urban development at bay and that local grassroots groups have championed the Rouge for decades.

In our view, the two most significant threats to the long-term ecological health of the Rouge are urban sprawl and crushing visitor numbers that could result in the park being loved to death. Farmers are not the enemy of nature conservation in the Rouge.

In recent months, we have listened with interest to debates about the appropriate management framework for the Rouge. Should it focus on ecological integrity or ecosystem health? We think there are valid arguments being made for both and that either approach could work.

For several years, Parks Canada has expressed a preference for managing the Rouge national urban park under an ecosystem health framework rather than an ecological integrity framework in order to distinguish the national urban parks from other national parks. In the spirit of being solutions-oriented, we developed and submitted constructive recommendations that focus on ecosystem health and those recommendations have been tabled with you for the record.

However, CPAWS believes there is a much more fundamental issue at stake here that needs to be addressed in the legislation. Nature conservation needs to be clearly identified as the overarching priority for managing the park. This gets to the very essence of what a park is. Without it, we don't actually have a park. We have something else, perhaps a multi-use zone. But international standards and guidelines for protected areas require that nature conservation be prioritized and existing federal and Ontario provincial legislation for parks and protected areas can meet this standard. The same standard can and should be reflected in the Rouge legislation, too. Yet it is absent from the current bill, which only requires that the minister take into consideration nature and wildlife in managing the park.

We are recommending that the legislation be amended to clearly identify nature conservation as the overarching management goal of the Rouge. This would mean that language in the bill would meet international and Canadian standards for protected areas. It would give park managers a clear mandate and stronger tools to protect the park's existing natural values and agricultural context. It would make Parks Canada accountable for improving the health of the ecosystem over time, while not giving the impression that they must achieve an end point of full ecological integrity.

This is not about farmers and conservationists as winners and losers. It is about empowering people to work together to achieve a common goal of protecting the amazing natural values of this very special place, including park managers, farmers, community members, park visitors, conservation organizations. It is about getting it right for the Rouge and for all future national urban parks that may follow. We must not forget that we are creating an important precedent with Canada's first national urban park.

We have also identified several areas where the bill could be strengthened by including more detailed requirements for management planning, requiring that a state-of-the parks report be tabled in Parliament every five years, as is the case with other national parks, and by tightening up requirements related to public infrastructure with more stringent criteria. We can provide more detail about these recommendations on request.

In summary, CPAWS urges committee members to work together to strengthen Bill C-40 to ensure that the Rouge national urban park can effectively protect this natural treasure in the long term, while also supporting a healthy farming community and encouraging people to connect with nature. The single most important amendment you could make to this legislation is to strengthen clause 6 to prioritize nature conservation in park management.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our views. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Jim Robb, General Manager, Friends of the Rouge Watershed: Thank you, Mr. Chair and senators. During my presentation, I would like to refer to a few things, so I hope you all have this pamphlet with the map and also our letter to you. Thank you for this opportunity to address the Rouge National Urban Park Bill. Friends of the Rouge Watershed is a charitable organization that is involved with more than 50,000 young people, kids from inner city schools and such, coming out to the Rouge to plant trees and wild flowers to build wetlands and to help them to understand the relationship between human beings and our natural world.

I have been involved in this issue for about 29 years now. I was the volunteer chairperson of the Save the Rouge movement back in the 1980s, when the park was first brought to Ottawa. My colleague Gloria Reszler has also been involved for almost three decades, and the present Friends of the Rouge Watershed has been a volunteer on this issue for almost three decades.

The Rouge is an inspiring story of nation building. It is a story about thousands of citizens getting involved in community meetings, regional government, local government and advocating for something wonderful for their community.

But how did we get this opportunity? The opportunity started back in the 1970s. In the 1970s, the federal government and Transport Canada were looking at massive airport growth, and they looked at another site in east Toronto for a second airport. They also looked at one at Mirabel in Montreal.

So the federal government expropriated about 76 square kilometres of land in north Markham and north Pickering to prevent urban development from coming in and closing out the opportunity. That was the federal Liberal government. Not to be outdone, the provincial Progressive Conservative government of Bill Davis expropriated about 80 square kilometres of land.

If you look at this map that you have in front of you, the green lands that are remaining there are provincial lands. They contain almost all of the Rouge Valley system. They connect to the lake. They contain most of the publicly accessible lands. Those are the provincial lands. The blue are lands that were in the existing Rouge Park, but are not in the federal proposal.

If you go to the north, the light green lands are the proposed federal expansion of the park in north Markham of about 20 square kilometres. The yellow lands are provincially designated greenbelt lands in Oak Ridges Moraine in north Pickering, which are not part of the park proposal but we think should be. The black striped lands are lands that Minister Flaherty put a line around, saying, "We want to protect this for the future Pickering airport."

We have this opportunity because governments stopped urban sprawl from moving onto these lands. Otherwise, they would be developed. Both provincial Progressive Conservative and federal Liberal governments, then communities came in. Communities objected, including one of our patrons, Lois James, an Order of Canada recipient and patron of Friends of the Rouge Watershed. She is 91 now. To protect those beautiful green spaces and farmlands they actually stopped the airport. There may be an airport that will go in there in some small way in the future. But it may not be needed, and there definitely isn't a need for this big black-line area. The big black-line area is 35 square kilometres; Toronto International Airport is 17, 16. Buttonville, which is the most likely regional airport in need of replacement, is 1 and a bit square kilometres. Our 100-square park proposal does not preclude airport development. It protects all of these public greenbelt lands going from the lake to the moraine.

Once the airport fight had been won by citizens and the airport had been held off in the 1970s, a group called Save the Rouge Valley System formed. Literally tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of people have been out to meetings over the last four decades-plus with that group.

In the late 1980s, I came to Ottawa. The provincial government was thinking of selling off its lands in the dark green areas for development, and we appealed to the Mulroney government and said, "Can you help us to encourage the province to do the right thing." Lo and behold, Prime Minister Mulroney, with urging from the Honourable Pauline Browes, Jean Charest, David Crombie and a variety of forward-thinking people, convinced the province, "We'll give you $10 million to create a park." Premier Peterson listened — a Liberal provincial government — consulted and actually, in 1990, announced the park. In 1994, after a four-year multistakeholder planning process, Bob Rae, then the NDP premier, created Rouge Park. David Crombie helped to set it up.

Between 1996 and 2001, under Premier Mike Harris's government, there was the Rouge Park North plan for the plan north of Steeles, a five-year process with stakeholders. They developed policies. They developed an ecological corridor. They developed "protect, enhance and restore." They developed ecological integrity as the aspirational goal. This was under a Progressive Conservative provincial government.

In 2001, the Progressive Conservative provincial government of Premier Mike Harris announced the Oak Ridges Moraine plan, which is at the headwaters of this. That blue line that you see on the map, that is the Oak Ridges Moraine. Again, the goal for that plan was ecological and hydrological integrity. Protect, restore and enhance are the mantras of those plans.

So fast forward to 2002, and David Collenette, in the federal government, came to the Rouge and said — as part of the Chretien government — that all of the lands above that blue line, the yellow lands in Pickering, the green lands in Markham and a big swath coming down to connect with the parklands will be permanent federal greenspace. The signs are up. The regulations weren't put in place, but that was done.

These are all planning processes. In 2005, Premier McGuinty brought in the greenbelt plan. The greenbelt plan gave the Rouge Park plan provincial policy status.

Again, there was a long consultation process. In 2007, the Rouge watershed plan was done. When they first looked at it, they said, "How are we going to grow in this region? We have to grow. We have people coming in." They said, "We can't grow without serious flooding and erosion liabilities downstream. We will pollute the lake, destroy the drinking water and further destroy the beaches. We will have billions of dollars of liabilities." What did they say? They said, "Let's go back to the drawing board because we are going to grow." And they said, "We're going to restore and enhance some of these lands in Rouge Park to reduce run-off, improve water quality, protect Great Lakes water quality according to our international agreement and to reduce our liability." They put that plan in place in 2007.

The goal of that plan was ecological and cultural integrity. I think you will have something from Minister Duguid. I understand — and we're happy about this — that Minister Duguid's office, the provincial government, has basically said to you, we have all of the lands that contain the Rouge Valley, we have almost all of the public accessible lands and we would like to transfer them to you because we think the Rouge national park is a great idea. They could do with one in Vancouver, Halifax and Calgary. It's a great precedent, but let's nation build in the right way. Let's not roll the policy framework back 20 years. Let's move the policy framework forward.

Minister Duguid basically said, "Federal government, you signed a memorandum of agreement that said you would meet or exceed existing provincial policies." So that relates to the 1994 management plan implemented by Premier Rae, started by Premier Peterson; the 2001 management implemented by Premier Mike Harris when Paul Callandra was the chief of staff to the municipal affairs minister, Steve Gilchrist; the 2001 announcement of David Collenette, which wasn't formalized; and the 2005 Greenbelt Plan and the 2007 watershed plan. Currently, Bill C-40 just ignores that policy framework. How does it ignore it? The key thing is that it doesn't say "protect, restore and enhance."

I can give you an example. I hope it works. Say you have an airline and you want to carry another 50 people on a plane that carries 100. You're going to apply for a permit. The authorities are going to say before you can carry another 50 people, you have to strengthen the wheels and the undercarriage, strengthen the wings, otherwise that airplane will crash. In the Rouge watershed we're bringing on, more people are moving in, there will be more runoff from urban areas. If we don't protect, restore and enhance where we can on public land, we will have huge liabilities.

You're seeing that insurance companies — the big ones like Munich — are starting to sue municipalities for lack of due diligence. The way this bill is written, you wipe away the due diligence of the last 10 to 15 years of public planning because there's no intent to protect, enhance and restore. It's just protect and present.

Also, this bill says the minister will "take into consideration." I've been an adjudicator. I worked for several years as an environmental review tribunal head for Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Environmental Assessment Board, and the Environmental Appeals Board. "Take into consideration" has no legal meaning. Take into consideration is what we do everywhere. In an open pit mine we take into consideration the environment. In an oil field development, we take into consideration. When you declare a park, it's given a higher standard. This is nation building. We are going to have economic growth and development here and we will do some things that environmentalists will not like, but over here we are balancing. We will protect this precious piece of public land. The bill needs amending.

I have seen a few of the words that Minister Duguid has put forward from the provincial standpoint, that he will transfer the lands and get on with it if these amendments are accepted. I would encourage senators to accept the amendments and to help us to get on because this is a great initiative. We do really appreciate that the federal government has come forward with a Rouge national urban park proposal, but let's get it right. Let's do the right thing for future generations. Let's leave a legacy that we can all be proud of. Let's not put in pathetically weak legislation for a park that has to last for centuries.

The Chair: Thank you. We will now go to questions and I'll defer to the deputy chair, Senator Massicotte.

Senator Massicotte: Thank you to all four of the witnesses today. It's an important proposed act, and important to the community adjoining the park. Maybe Mr. Hébert-Daly or Mr. Buchanan can help me. I appreciate it's a lack of understanding on my part, but everybody pays a lot of attention to the use of a couple of words. When I read the proposed act — and I think you've read it — it makes it very clear that it's established for the purpose of protecting and presenting for current and future generations the natural and cultural heritage of the park, and so on. In fact, it's also in the preface that makes it clear. It's always protecting the natural, cultural and farming. If you also listen to the presentation that the parks people did and the one the minister made, which is evidence that's accumulated, they also make it very clear that the ecological aspect of the park is very important, and they commit to maintain an organization to improve it.

We've gotten comments from Mr. Robb. He's got some suggested words, the minister has some words. Mr. Hébert-Daly, you talk about the priority of natural presentation or conservation. It's important to you.

Why are you arguing about words when the intent seems to be very clear? Clue me in. Why is it so different?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: I'm happy to respond to that. One of the key things is that in my view, there's a very big difference between what you might consider a municipal park and this park. We're looking for a standard of park that would actually be considered a protected area by international standards. In order to do that, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's definition, the international standard for protected areas, it has to prioritize the conservation of nature as its primary purpose. If it doesn't have that, it doesn't qualify as a protected area under international standards.

That's why there's this question mark. It doesn't mean there can't be other things going on in the park. It doesn't necessarily mean that there can't be farming or cultural sites. Those are fine, but there needs to be an overarching framework provided in legislation that tells the park managers and gives tools to the park managers for what they need to know on what they're trying to achieve.

Senator Massicotte: All of you are arguing about who is on first base. What is the priority? The minister, as well as the park committee, made it clear that this is an urban park. You just can't say, "Do as with Banff National Park" where 96 per cent is wooded area. You can't say ecological priority, period. No, it's a living park; you've got highways and pipelines going through it.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Absolutely, it's a living priority, there's no question, but you need to have a goal you're trying to achieve. If you have four competing goals that are equally prioritized, you don't have a goal, you don't have a focus. In our view, providing one focus point, which is what creates a protected area in the first place, allows you to be working with the usages in the park, helping you to achieve that goal. If you have four priorities, you have none.

Senator Massicotte: The response and comments we're getting is all very good, where the intent seems to be the same. Everybody is talking about words like a team of lawyers, but some say all that is important is the management plan. If it's in a management plan, is that good enough? Why is it not good enough?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: I don't want to take over, but —

The Chair: All of you should answer that.

Senator Massicotte: A short answer.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: The short answer, we will continue to work on the management plan and try to make it as strong as possible. But without that overarching framework, we set a bad precedent for future national urban parks and we don't have a protected area by international standards.

Mr. Buchanan: In contrast to some of what we just heard, I think having the environment as the priority in the park is actually turning the clock back to the last 20 years of the advancement of Rouge Park. It was built through a lot of hard work, activism, environmental protection, tough battles. Saving the land was the priority and through a lot of hard work, something special was achieved.

The Rouge is now moving into a new phase where we're going to achieve something extraordinary through collaboration. There are many other pieces of legislation and that's an important part of this as well. We're talking about a legislative framework that sets the stage for working things out with clear direction from plans or management plans. One just needs to look at the Greenbelt Act, not the Greenbelt Plan, which has 12 stated objectives for the greenbelt including environmental protection, agriculture, et cetera. It's a great model for that urbanizing landscape.

In the context of a national urban park moving forward, those tough choices need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, considering what is right for the particular situation that is being dealt with. The overarching guideline or emphasis on environment would just fuel debate from past experience.

Senator Massicotte: One last question. Make it short, Mr. Robb. The chair will kick me.

Mr. Robb: Thank you very much. You need to give nature a fighting chance here. You also need to protect and restore because there has been a lot of damage done in the past. We are fully supportive of farming as a sustainable activity within the park and we always have been. We probably had more than enough political force for the lower part of the park.

Senator Massicotte: You still want different words?

Mr. Robb: Yes, because without "protect" and "enhance," those are the words of the existing legislation. The government agreed to meet or exceed the provincial policies. The provincial policies are there, and the provincial government has said quite strongly, "We wanted to you to create a national park, but we won't transfer our lands unless you fulfill your promise to meet or exceed the existing policies." The existing policies are clearly all protect, enhance, improve, restore, and we need to do that to counteract, to counterbalance, as I was saying, the pressures around the park.

As far as infrastructure, just to be clear, the infrastructure is mainly being zoned out of the park. Most of the roads, the highways, are being zoned out of the park, so of that 57-square-kilometre study area, there have already been agreements to zone out about 7 square kilometres that are infrastructure. There will remain a few pipelines that go through the park, but the infrastructure has been largely zoned out, and they have given generous allowances to account for the expansion in the infrastructure, and farming can continue in the park.

Currently 80 per cent of this park is in subsidized leases for industrial cash cropping, and we need to work slowly to make it more sustainable farming, to try innovative farming and to give a little bit more land for Mother Nature and the people who own it to enjoy because 80 per cent is in subsidized industrial farming leases, below market rate, no competitive process.

Senator Massicotte: We received a letter from the provincial minister today. We got a copy of the letter where the minister was recommending specific wording changes to the proposed act and then he would get onside. Personally I think it's very cute of him to do that. It's a neat negotiating tactic. They are trying to get a legislative body like ourselves imposing that upon the federal government where they should be negotiating directly. I'm not going to fall prey to that.

Having said that, at the end of the day, if the provincial government doesn't agree and therefore the province will not contribute their lands — and it looks like we're running out of time — what should we do as parliamentarians? Should we vote in favour of the bill or should we just let it die?

Mr. Robb: I want to see the initiative go forward, but I don't want to see it go backwards. We are very happy to work as reasonable stakeholders and work out these issues with win-win solutions.

Senator Massicotte: The bottom line is, if they can't and two days from now or a week from now we have to decide to vote for or against the bill and the province and the federal government cannot agree at this point in time, what do you want us to do?

Mr. Robb: The federal government is free to create a park in the northern part of Markham that's about 18 to 19 square kilometres and it's 90 per cent in subsidized leases. They're free to do that, and there are additional lands in Pickering that could be added to that to create a park, and then the provincial government is free to —

Senator Massicotte: Should we vote in favour or should we vote against or should we let it die?

Mr. Robb: I think this legislation needs to go back to the house for revisions.

Senator Massicotte: Therefore you're saying let it die?

Mr. Robb: I don't know your process, but I can tell you this: The legislation is not sufficiently strong and directed and prioritized to do the job it needs to do for centuries.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: I think we've been very clear that we think that it sets a very bad precedent and that we would actually recommend that the bill not go forward.

Mr. Buchanan: We would recommend that the bill go forward as-is. It is absolutely exactly what the Rouge alliance asked for. We asked for assistance; we asked for clear direction. We asked for capable managers to move in with resources to help, and that's exactly what Parks Canada and the federal government have done. We're continuing to seek that support.

Senator Eaton: I'd like to pick up several things Senator Massicotte started.

Mr. Robb, I have two quotes here. "It's not a park; it's an industrial farm. The interests of a few people are being put above the interest of the public and the interest of the environment." You said that about the farmers, I guess?

Mr. Robb: I think I probably said something like that. The reality is right now it's corn for ethanol and it's soya beans.

Senator Eaton: That's fine. That's what they want to plant. The other one is "Unsustainable cash crop farming should be phased out. It happens on private land across Ontario and shouldn't take place on precious parkland." I guess we know how you feel about farmers, correct?

Mr. Robb: No. One of our great supporters in this is Russ Reeser who the road —

Senator Eaton: Those are two quotes.

Mr. Robb: The road is actually named after Reeser. He was one of our great supporters to the park. I guess as you look at it, we would like to see the evolution. On public land we think you can demonstrate innovative farming techniques and help to reduce any risk to the farmers and then help other farmers to be able to look at these techniques. In the private sector, it's different. I fully understand farming is a difficult occupation. It produces food that we need. I respect that work. I do a lot of similar work digging holes, planting things. I do that kind of outdoor work, so I respect that.

I think that in a park, longer term, we can transition to a different type of farming. We could have more orchards, more pick-your-own farms, more organic farming. That's what I was trying to say there. I think if you look at the pollinator issue right now and some of those things, this would be a fantastic area to fulfill Prime Minister Harper's commitment to create corridors for the monarch butterfly and for other pollinators that aren't dependent on pesticides.

Senator Eaton: I sit on the Agriculture Committee. I was part of the bee study.

When Senator Massicotte asked you what happens if it is voted down, you were talking about if the federal government took over the northern part and left the provincial lands, but in Ontario it's protected by The Greenbelt Act, is it not?

Mr. Robb: There are several layers there. There's the Greenbelt Plan and the act. There's the Rouge North Management Plan done during the period of —

Senator Eaton: The Greenbelt Act, does it mention anywhere ecological integrity as being a priority?

Mr. Robb: The Greenbelt Plan does and the Rouge Park plans definitely do; it's in their goals and statements. The Greenbelt Plan gives provincial policy status to the Rouge Park plans. If you go to 3.2.6 of the Greenbelt Plan, it essentially says the stronger of this plan or the Rouge north plan will apply. And the Rouge north plan is Premier Mike Harris's great gift to the Rouge Park.

Senator Eaton: In a couple of years, if this bill was not passed, the Ontario government could not let aggregate mining occur?

Mr. Robb: Anything can happen, but I'll tell you, as citizens, there are thousands of citizens that would be revolting over it.

Senator Eaton: But it's not protected right now under provincial legislation.

Mr. Robb: It is. In the Greenbelt Plan, it's in the Greenbelt Natural Heritage System. There's zoning. Markham's own official plan, and this was done by Don Cousins, actually put the ecological corridor in there to be in compliance with the Greenbelt Plan. There is a lot of protection. I would completely agree with you that a well-crafted national park bill, like the changes that we're proposing, would be much better protection than what the province has, but it has to be well crafted.

Senator Eaton: I gather, Mr. Hébert-Daly and Ms. Woodley, you think that an urban park set in the middle of 6 million people should have the same restrictions as Banff or Nahanni or it should be the same? In other words, this is not a precedent because it's situated in a very strongly urban —

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Absolutely. We've been very clear from the beginning that we understand that there is going to need to be a different approach because we don't necessarily want to be creating a situation where —

Senator Eaton: I guess I don't understand how your approach is different.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: That's exactly the point, though. Putting nature conservation first doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have — even in Banff, if you look at it carefully, they were able to twin the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff, but the reason they were able to do that is because they took nature conservation seriously and were able to put in things like wildlife crossing bridges. They were able to use mitigating measures that would help us to get there.

Senator Eaton: I don't think Banff National Park, which is a wonderful place where I've hiked, is comparable to the GTA.

You don't think that placing agriculture, environment, heritage and culture as four strong columns to support this park is viable?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: You cannot have four priorities in management; that is our position.

Senator Eaton: I think you can have four strong pillars that support something. They have to be considered equally.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: You can absolutely have those practices and those things existing within the park. We do not stand in opposition to that, absolutely.

Senator Eaton: Thank you. Do you have anything you want to add, Mr. Buchanan?

Mr. Buchanan: I think the idea of four pillars to the park is sound, and I've worked on land management, both for the province and for York Region, managing 5,300 acres of the York Regional Forest, and we look at environmental, ecological health. We look at it as a people's place, with trails. We balance the management of that park, and it's a testament to what can work.

Senator Eaton: This could set precedents, couldn't it, for Stanley Park, for a park in Calgary, downtown Montreal? I mean, this is an urban space.

Senator Mitchell: I'm quite compelled by the argument that, if you're going to do this the first time, for sure you should get it right. So I'd like to explore that a little bit.

The argument is made that maybe something is better than nothing. I get that that isn't necessarily true. But is there damage that could be avoided by taking a lesser step now that would be irreversible? Two years from now, we could revisit it and get the language better and get the focus better and fix it. It's not as though this is etched in stone. Is there irreversible damage that could be avoided by taking a step now, or is it worth taking that risk?

Mr. Robb: I think that what is on the table right now takes us backward, so we're willing to be patient. Lois James has been working on this for 43 years. I've been working on it for almost 30. We're willing to be patient. We don't want to take the policy gains that people worked so hard on over the last 25 years and have them essentially wasted. We don't want to reinvent the wheel. There's good science in the existing plans, the watershed plans. There's lots of good work. It's a waste of time and money to draw that policy framework backwards.

I think what the province, from what I understand, is proposing, is a compromise. It is an ecological integrity. We put before you today that we would prefer to say protect, enhance and restore the ecological integrity and cultural and scenic values of the park. It appears the province has put together something different. I've seen it, and I think it's a reasonable compromise. I think that it would be good to move forward with that reasonable compromise. I'm saying that without having spoken to my board of directors yet about where Friends of the Rouge Watershed is actually going to come down, but it looked like a good compromise to me.

Senator Mitchell: Could I ask another one?

CPAWS, Mr. Hébert-Daly, do you feel that it's a reasonable compromise too, or have you had time to check that out?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: I'm afraid I haven't seen it in terms of what has been submitted, so I can't speak to it. Again, if it prioritizes nature as a management principle, honestly, there are lots of other little things we would love to see changed in the bill, but that would be sufficient to make sure the precedent isn't poorly set for future national parks.

Senator Mitchell: I wonder if you could, when you get a chance to look at it, give us some indication of whether you feel it captures that essential element that you're talking about of prioritizing nature because it does seem to be about the same.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Does anybody actually have it? I could take a look at it now.

Senator Mitchell: We do actually have it, yes. Is that okay?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Would it be acceptable for me to —

The Chair: The clerk will make a copy and distribute it.

Senator Mitchell: That's really what I'm looking at. How do you capture in words that what it is that you make a very strong case for is necessary? My final question would be: How do we get one of these parks in Edmonton?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: We'd love to work with you on that.

Senator Mitchell: We have 55 kilometres of parks.

The Chair: Are you finished, senator?

Senator Mitchell: Yes, thank you. Sorry.

Senator Ringuette: It's really incredible, but I guess my first question would be: When were all of these MOUs signed with Parks Canada to start to create this process? When was that signed, ten years ago, five years ago, three years ago?

Mr. Robb: I'll try to answer. The Rouge Park Alliance was this multistakeholder advisory committee of the park, and they saw that they needed better leadership, better funding. So they looked at it. I worked very hard with the Honourable Pauline Browes and Councillor De Baeremaeker and many other people to advocate for a national park. In fact, when we came to Ottawa in 1987 and had a luncheon with the Speaker then — I think it was the Honourable John Fraser — with Prime Minister Mulroney and the Finance Minister, we were actually pitching for a joint provincial national park as a new type of park, a marriage. We were young and we were hopeful. What we ended up getting was a province-created park run by municipal representatives. I call it a caterpillar, where, if one or two legs didn't want to move, the caterpillar couldn't move. We were hoping that Parks Canada and the federal government would make it into a butterfly, but that hasn't occurred yet. We're still hopeful. In terms of the memorandum of understanding, it was signed on January 26, 2013, between Ontario, and Canada. The memorandum of understanding stated: "Parks Canada will work with Ontario to develop written policies in respect of the creation, management and administration of the Park that meet or exceed provincial policies. . ."

Then it went on to speak to the greenbelt plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine plan, the growth plan. So that was two years ago.

Senator Ringuette: Okay. Two years ago. That's not a decade ago. That's not two decades ago; it's two years ago. There was an agreement between the provincial government and the federal government that we are moving this way on, at least at a minimum, the provincial policy with regard to an urban park.

Mr. Robb: That's what the agreement says.

Senator Ringuette: The bottom line is, what happened that the federal government, as Parks Canada, is reneging on this MOU? With regard to everything that we've heard, "We're going to negotiate a 25-year lease with the farmers" and all of that, I would ask for a copy of that proposed lease. I've never seen it. If Parks Canada, through the federal government, is reneging on a two-year MOU with a provincial government on an issue, what can other stakeholders expect from this?

Mr. Robb: If I may respond, one of the real shames here was that, when Minister Kent came down — and Minister Kent was great on this — in 2012, I believe it was, in May, and made the announcement, we were all very happy at that point. One of the points that he made was, "I will be, in the upcoming weeks, establishing a multi-stakeholder committee to work on some of these inevitable issues that come up." We already had a multi-stakeholder committee with municipalities and some environmental groups, farmers and stuff, so we knew what it was like. That committee never got created, and it's been a real shame because, if that committee had been created and there were stakeholders sitting around the table, I know I'm going to bring a natural values watershed health perspective. I know the farmers are going bring an agricultural, productive land, economic perspective. A lot of those farmers I can totally reach agreement with. We have things in common, but, when we're not sitting around the table and somebody is quoting us in the newspaper, I say one sort of inflammatory thing out of a hundred — and you know what it's like — and that one inflammatory thing goes in the newspaper. The farmers are thinking, "He's a really bad guy." If we had been sitting across the table, we could have reached some win-win solutions.

That was a broken promise. The second thing is the "meet or exceed." We had some comfort level that the federal government bona fides would meet or exceed, and that hasn't happened.

Senator Ringuette: I understand where you're coming from. You have a signed contract. One of the parties breaks the contract. So that's what we're facing here. I can understand your reluctance to move forward.

Mr. Hébert-Daly?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: I hear what you're saying, and I sympathize with that point of view. I do want to say, though, that Parks Canada has been in conversation with folks throughout this process.

Senator Ringuette: In silos.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Yes. You'll notice in the documents we tabled that we've been talking with them since 2011 — the document that we submitted to you was from 2012 — and highlighting this particular issue. So it's not that they haven't been engaged in some conversation. It's just that, at some point, it hasn't manifested itself in a change to the legislation.

Senator Ringuette: There is an issue in this bill. It says that, with regard to stakeholders and committee organizations, the minister "may" create a committee of stakeholders. Why not "must," so that there's a greater feeling of belonging from everyone who has been working for decades on the creation of this park? So "may" is a very volatile word. If the legislation said "must," it would create an obligation at least.

The Chair: I will have to ask for quick answers to that. When we take too long in answering, we are taking the time from any senator to ask the question. If you have a quick response to that, please.

Mr. Buchanan: Your first point, the perception that Parks Canada has reneged on something with the Province of Ontario, Parks Canada has been very open and transparent in my observation in working with the province. When you look at the idea that they have reneged on meeting or exceeding the legislation, they have not.

It spins around the idea that the federal legislation is weaker than the provincial government legislation; it is not. It is that the policies in the Greenbelt Plan are more prescriptive, and Parks Canada is trying to get their management plan off the ground, which has objectives about restoring, which has targets in terms of things like biodiversity.

We must compare apples to apples in terms of have they met or exceeded the legislation. The protection provisions in the federal legislation are yards above what exist in terms of the provincial legislation, just to be clear.

Senator Ringuette: I understand that —

The Chair: Senator, I am going to have to move on. I will put you on second round, if that's okay.

Senator Eggleton: As we have heard before from just about everybody that has come before this committee, everybody wants the national urban park of the Rouge valley. Everybody wants it, and it all started out looking quite good. It looked like the province and the federal government were coming together, and all of a sudden the thing falls apart.

But as you can see from the map, the provincial territory is a very significant part of that. Why wouldn't we want to get this right by having the whole thing as a part of it?

I think you said, Mr. Robb, that a lot of the federal, the light green property on here, is not open to the public?

Mr. Robb: No, I hesitate to give the numbers, but I would suggest — I'm not aware of even 5 per cent of that land being accessible to the public as parks or trailheads or any place where you can go and walk. Most of it is in farm leases and residential leases. I am not aware of any of that.

The provincial land has a number of access points, including the new Bob Hunter Memorial Park. Down in the lower Rouge valley there are trail systems. On Lake Ontario there's the Rouge Beach, the Rouge Marsh, so the provincial lands contain almost all of the Rouge valley, which is kind of the centrepiece of the park. Without the provincial lands, there really isn't a park.

Senator Eggleton: Right. I think that is an important statement to make. I must say that I'm glad, since we started this exercise, that we're seeing some possible movement here between the provincial and federal governments. Mr. Duguid's letter to the Minister of the Environment is helpful. The three proposed amendments there, you have commented on them, Mr. Robb, but I would ask Mr. Éric Hébert-Daly, if he has some comments on it.

The first one, clause 4, this apparently would replace the "ecological integrity" phrase with "protecting, restoring, enhancing and presenting," et cetera.

Clause 6, as I understand it, presently reads in the bill that this would be taken into consideration and, well, "taken into consideration" means it might not be implemented. This is a must in the management park plan, give priority to the protection, et cetera.

In the final one, this is a point I raised last time as well: "The minister shall establish a multi-stakeholder committee and a scientific panel" rather than "may." He may or may not in the legislation as it reads now in Bill C-40.

Do you have any comments about those three amendments that the province has proposed to the federal government? Mr. Robb indicated earlier how he felt about it.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: This is the first time I'm seeing this, so it is a bit tricky. I'm not sure that clause 6 would meet the international definition of a protected area under the modification that's proposed here, so I would have to reserve judgment and seek some guidance from folks who, legal or otherwise, would be able to understand if that covers that off.

Senator Eggleton: But you would agree that key to the effort here is to get the provincial and federal governments to agree so we can really have a national urban park and an urban park —

An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.

Senator Eggleton: Not Banff — an urban park. I don't think you understand quite what is involved here.

Senator Eaton: Yes, I do.

Senator Eggleton: I think they understand what is involved.

Oh, I see, only you know. Okay.

Anyway, I hope we do get that combination of the two.

Senator Black: I have an observation that I would like to share with you, and you can comment or not. I want to start by thanking all of you and sharing with you the respect that I have for each of you and the strong positions that you are taking here because what I observe is we really are, in many ways, in violent agreement. We agree this is a good thing to do. This is a good thing to do. It is just how to get it done.

What I hear folks saying — and I understand that completely — is we want to ensure, insofar as we can, that the environment is the priority. Maintaining the beautiful natural environment is a priority. I understand that.

I want to share based on my own personal experience, which I always hate to do, but at my age that just happens. I live immediately outside Banff National Park, and I have had many interactions with the officials at Banff National Park, and I think they're not going to believe what I'm going to say next, and I think you should take some comfort in this.

The national parks folks who run our parks in Canada, and these are the people who will run the Rouge urban park, are tough, ruthless — they're responsible and they're always focused on the environmental bottom line. I have seen it because I have acted for many developers over the years, and we have always lost.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Not always.

Senator Mitchell: It hasn't hurt business.

Senator Black: Thanks for that, Senator Mitchell.

If it offers any kind of comfort, with our friends at national parks in charge, the interests you so passionately support I think are going to be protected and enhanced, and I think it's going to be a tremendous win for Toronto, for the GTA and for Canada. I think it is the kind of thing that two, three years from now we're going to continue to be in violent agreement that we did the right thing here. That's my observation. You can comment or not as you wish.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: Senator Black, I absolutely agree. Parks Canada is a fantastic agency, and you would not have us say otherwise.

But the key thing is that they actually have a legislative mandate to do that in those parks, which is in part why we're saying we would like to give them that same strong, active mandate to be able to do that in the Rouge.

Senator Black: I understand that. Thanks very much.

Mr. Robb: When the Rouge national urban park was announced, two months before it was announced, $180 million was taken out of Environment Canada and Parks Canada in the science budget, and two months later we had the announcement of 143.7 for the Rouge plus I think 7.8 per year. I'm there on the day and I'm sort of smiling, but I'm thinking, "We need scientists." This is one of my real problems with this. There's a lot of science behind the Rouge River Watershed Plan.

Parks Canada is a wonderful organization. I have been to our other parks, and I'm not trying to make the Rouge into Banff, but if you look at ecological integrity, Bruce Peninsula and the St. Lawrence Islands, they all have it. Riding Mountain National Park has a cottage community, so I could argue that point.

What I'm saying is we need this strong legislation to give Mother Nature a fighting chance to hold her own and even get a little healthy over time. If you look at how we have changed in a hundred years in terms of our practices, the Rouge has an incredible opportunity.

I know the park very well, and quite frankly, about 60 per cent of the park is actually not surrounded by urban development. It isn't supposed to be because it has the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt Plan and its farmland and natural areas.

If you don't know this area well, really well like I know it, and if you haven't seen 22 other national parks — I came back to the Rouge where I grew up in Scarborough, and it is the most biologically diverse area in Canada. It is this rich blending. It has more diversity than a lot of the wonderful distant parks that I still love.

So we're not trying to make it some idealistic Nahanni or Klahanie park. Its biological richness needs a strong legislative framework to give it a fighting chance against developers and people who will inevitably come in and test it.

I know as an adjudicator I did a lot of decisions and they were never reviewed, overturned by cabinet or the courts, not because I'm good but because I had good policies like Bill Davis' Niagara Escarpment Plan. Bill Davis did that, and it was very unpopular at the time. Very few people in Ontario would now say we made it too strong. You have to make it strong. Give it a fighting chance.

Mr. Buchanan: I like the way you captured that, sir. In the urban landscape, when you are trying to do the right thing, as Parks Canada will do, if you put a priority on the environment, it continues the discussion and not always for the positive.

The one example I can give is with the commitment to agriculture. One of the foundations of ecological restoration is dealing with the drainage on the landscape. The farmers have said with long leases, job one is to restore the drainage so they can farm productively.

As an example, if the ecological priority was there, we would have never-ending debates about the fragmentation of the hydrology of the watershed. That having been said, if you bring forth a collaborative framework, we bring in groups like Ducks Unlimited that have credibility for working with farmers, working with existing hydrology, enhancing the drainage and finding that balance. It opens the door for productive discussion and it doesn't give leverage to situations that will be debated and brought into other forums.

It has been done in the past and it didn't work.

Senator Seidman: Thank you for your presentations. Among the many letters of support that the committee has received, the most recent that I have seen arrived on March 2, very recently, from the mayor's office of the City of Markham.

If I might just read to you the virtual last sentence of the letter:

You have before you one of the most forward-thinking pieces of legislation in the field of parks in recent Canadian history; Rouge National Urban Park will bring the National Park experience to Canada's cities.

In the letter, it refers very clearly to the way this bill balances environmental protection with the parks near urban nature. We have heard over and over again that this is setting a very new situation. It is an urban national park with somewhat different characteristics, as we have all said here.

With that in mind, the fact that there is continuing dialogue and that Parks Canada continues to work very closely with all stakeholders, Mr. Buchanan, you said in your presentation that York signed the memorandum of agreement last fall. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Regional Municipality of Durham, the City of Toronto and the City of Pickering have all signed the MOA and are eager for the park to become a reality.

I'm trying to figure out what the issue is. It sounds to me like there's overwhelming support for the concept that Parks Canada continues to work in partnership, in dialogue. Parks Canada has a superb reputation for doing what they need to do. I find it a bit of a difficulty. Please help me.

Mr. Buchanan: I think that's a good crystallization of the point. The people, in terms of Mayor Scarpitti, municipalities and the residents that live there and have experienced the struggle of Rouge Park over the past two decades, a lot has been achieved, but it has struggled. It has been dying the death of a thousand cuts.

Why? Because there was a debate between restoration, how to restore, how to balance the farming. Every attempt at a positive move for the park was met with endless debate. It was very unproductive.

The municipal authorities, the mayors and their constituents have observed this and have been frustrated by it. We are absolutely eager for a positive change, and belabouring this point for another six months, another year, two years will be the nail in the coffin of Rouge Park.

Mr. Robb: This has been a community struggle of decades. I have to give you an example. When we went to Scarborough council in the Toronto lands, the first battle was to put a highway north-south through the park and table, and housing an 18 million tonne dump. Council was 16-1 in favour of that outcome. They held three or four meetings. A the first meeting there were 600 people, 1,000 at the second meeting, the third meeting had 1,500 people, and council turned around 16-1 in favour.

I have worked with the Mayor of Markham, Frank Scarpitti for 20-plus years, and I have respect for him and his deputy mayor, Jack Heath. But this park and the vision that carries it forward didn't come from the bureaucracy. It came from a few select politicians like the Honourable Pauline Browes, who was involved in it back then. It was people like David Peterson, Ian Scott, Brian Mulroney, Jean Charest. A few people could see the vision and would bring it forward.

You are hearing today from people who all have a legitimate role at the stakeholder table, but didn't see the vision 30 years ago. People patted me on the head. I was 30 years old then, and they patted me on the head and said you are a nice idealistic young man, Jim, but having a park next to a city of this size and this kind of beauty is just not realistic. The developers and everybody are eventually going to swallow it up. We're giving you a vision for 100 years down the road. It is a nation building vision. You need to do it right, and strong. I would only say our vision has worked pretty well for the last 30 years, it has brought us here. I had hoped you would respect that community vision.

I'm just a carrier of all these thousands of people, and we're the people that go out and deliver the thousands of flyers, knock on doors, go to church groups and community meetings and we have built that support because people love the Rouge. Pauline Browes told me that she met her husband and had her first date in the Rouge. Everybody has a story. I went swimming there; I caught a fish there.

In eastern Toronto, there are many ridings that border on the Rouge, and people love the Rouge. They don't want a substandard park. They want a top-quality park.

Senator Seidman: I must say that I find Mr. Buchanan's argumentation here about how we have struggled, and you yourself have said how we have struggled. Are we going to keep struggling for another hundred years and the whole thing just dies on the table? Are we going to say we have an approximation of a really fabulous precedent here, and we have an enterprise in Parks Canada that can ensure this is going to come to pass in the best possible way, they're going to have the right kind of oversight and put together the right kind of dialogue.

Mr. Robb: Bad legislation, bad policy will lead to a disappointing bad park.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Eggleton: I have a supplementary question on Senator Seidman's question about municipalities. My understanding is that all the municipalities, just like everybody else, want a national urban park, but the expressions are not necessarily the current expressions of those councils with respect to Bill C-40.

In fact, I would like to comment on this because a letter that attempted to rally some support ended up with two mayors, the Mayors of Richmond Hill and Pickering, withdrawing their names from it. I have the correspondence to that effect. The mayor of Toronto has refused to sign this letter of support. So those are expressions, as I understand it, previously, of the council saying, "Yes, we want a national urban park," but they're not necessarily expressions — with perhaps the exception of the Regional Municipality of York and Markham — they're not necessarily the expression of all the municipalities.

Maybe, Mr. Robb, you can comment on that.

Mr. Robb: Yes, I know a lot of these mayors, and I speak to them from time to time. It is fair to say that everybody would really like this to work. It is fair to say that the municipality signed on for the transfer of lands that they hold and would like the province to move forward. Those are fair statements.

I have talked to a number of them, and their main thing is they would like to move forward. They haven't done their due diligence in terms of legal and policy review, and we have. With CPAWS and other groups, we retained an environmental lawyer, one of the best, and his conclusion was this legislation is too weak to do the job.

So we have done our due diligence. I know the policy framework on the Rouge backwards and forwards. I could quote you by verse. That policy framework is the contribution of not me, but thousands of people and lots of people in the bureaucracy, lots of politicians. And you don't just flush that policy framework away, and this current bill does. It flushes away the last 25 years of public policy development in the Rouge.

Mr. Buchanan: I'm not sure who eventually signed the correspondence to which you are speaking to, but certainly Chair Wayne Emmerson signed it, as you mentioned, and the City of Markham. I will say there have been a number of reports brought forward to each of the councils, the City of Toronto, the Region of York, the City of Markham, and all, as I'm aware, including the February 10 report to the City of Toronto, were received with a positive response.

There is ongoing discussion, absolutely, as there should be. There are not barrels of dissension against the way Parks Canada is proceeding.

Senator Eggleton: I haven't seen any correspondence where the city councils have considered Bill C-40, have you?

Mr. Buchanan: I have seen no correspondence, but reports have been tabled.

The Chair: Senator MacDonald.

Senator Eggleton: It doesn't mean they have been adopted.

Senator MacDonald: I want to go back to the discussions we have been having about ecological integrity and environmental priority. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the only provincial legislation that applies to the Ontario government lands in the proposed Rouge Park is the Greenbelt Act. I believe that's correct.

Is there anywhere in this act where "ecological integrity" is mentioned? I can't find it.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: By referencing the plans, of course, to the Greenbelt Act, they're mentioned there.

Senator MacDonald: Is it inherent in the body of the act, though?

Mr. Hébert-Daly: It is not.

Mr. Robb: You mentioned the greenbelt plan, and I understand you are talking about the provincial lands, but the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act and plan, both of them, their first statement, A, in terms of objectives is protecting the ecological and the hydrological integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine area.

It is in the Oak Ridges Moraine plan, which is part of the overall park area. You are correct in saying it is the greenbelt plan that applies to the provincial lands. The Greenbelt Act may not have ecological integrity but the plan does.

Senator MacDonald: But the act does not. The MOU that was signed with the Ontario government, in your recent submission, the City of Markham, you said that the federal government should honour its commitment to meet or exceed provincial policies by giving priority to ecological integrity within the legislation and management plan for the national Rouge Park. If that commitment was made, why isn't it included in the 2013 MOU? There is no mention of that.

Mr. Robb: The MOU is fairly broad. It says that Parks Canada will work with Ontario to develop —

Senator MacDonald: If it's fairly broad, why wouldn't it be in it?

Mr. Robb: Well, it says the greenbelt plant, the Oak Ridges Moraine plan. It names a number of plans. It names the Growth Plan and The Big Move. It names economic development plans as well as natural landscape and farmland protection plans.

Senator MacDonald: I have to say, I have a lot of faith in Parks Canada as well. I grew up in Louisbourg, with 10,000 acres of Parks Canada land being run and managed by Parks Canada since the mid-1960s. We have three national parks in Cape Breton alone. I must say I have some trouble with the doubt that has been thrown around this table about Parks Canada in terms of ecological environmental management.

Mr. Robb: We have not been taking on Parks Canada or their reputation. We are concerned that there have been significant cutbacks in environmental scientists — Environment Canada and Parks Canada — but we're not arguing that Parks Canada long term can be an excellent manager of the park. We're saying you need to give them strong legislation and policy framework.

You are in a very tough environment here. You do have a lot of competing needs. You need to give them a strong policy framework so that they can work and settle these issues, but they can settle them with a little bit of favour from Mother Nature long term.

Senator MacDonald: They can't settle them until they're in control and given some direction.

One more question in terms of Mother Nature: You mentioned that some of your words may be taken out of context in regard to farmland.

Mr. Robb: No, I think what I was trying to say is you can say 99 reasonable things, and the one thing you might wish you had back, that will be the one that shows up in the press, the more inflammatory.

Senator MacDonald: Let's look at some of the things you happened to mention: Unsustainable cash crop farming should be phased out. It happens on private land across Ontario. It shouldn't take place on precious park land.

Mr. Robb: I stand behind that. I think in a park we can do better in terms of what our farming practice is, and I'm not saying we change it right away. Farmers make investments in expensive equipment, in processes, and all kinds of things, and commitments; so we need to do this in a fair and rational transition.

Senator MacDonald: Don't you understand why farmers might feel threatened by that type of statement?

Mr. Robb: I do. That's why I wish that advisory committee would have been — because I went out for a tour with some of the farmers, and they said, "Geez, you don't have horns and a tail. You are actually a pretty reasonable guy; we think we could reach some agreements with you."

I have worked with the farmers over the years and know a number of them, and this is the unfortunate thing when these are used as wedge issues. This farming versus environmentalist has been a wedge issue here. It shouldn't be, because we can get along together but we need a good legislative framework.

Senator MacDonald: I don't see it as a wedge issue. There's a lot of farmland inside this proposed area.

Mr. Robb: There is.

Senator MacDonald: From some of the feedback I looked at, you would like to see a lot of this farmland reclaimed and out of the farmers' hands.

Mr. Robb: Well, number one, it has been public land for 40 years; number two, a lot of these farmers don't live anywhere near this area. They live 30 or 40 kilometres away.

The way farming works with grain crops like soybeans and corn, you might farm 10 square kilometres of land, and you might have farming that goes for 40 kilometres. That's why you have to know the context. Much of the land you can see that's farmland now in the GTA that's outside this public land is actually owned by developers. It is still being farmed, but it has basically been in a holding pattern. The developers get a tax break, so they give it to farmers. They give it to farmers for 40 to 50 bucks an acre just to cover the administration. That's not the market value.

You have this case in the Rouge where you have land that there is no competitive bidding process; it is way below market rate. It is 50 bucks an acre, in some places, whereas market rate would be 150. The Toronto Sun published an article last spring, and they called it living "in a renter's wonderland," and they itemized how many public officials were leasing this land because there wasn't any fair distribution process.

I don't live in the park. I live 15 kilometres away in the middle of Scarborough — I have no land in the vicinity of the park — but I know this landscape, and there needs to be some adjustment. Would you ever say that 80 per cent of a national park should be in private subsidized leases in the really long term? Is that where we're headed in Canada that 80 per cent of public parks are going to be in private leases? I don't think so.

We need to work those things out. We need to be fair. For the heritage farmers, who are expropriated — and there are a few still left — for those guys, we need to be more than fair because expropriation is a bad, nasty process.

But for people who live in Port Perry or Green Bank, 50 kilometres away, and they happen to have 100 acres that they put in soybeans, with those we might want to look at are there other options. Would someone like to put an orchard here? Would someone like to have an organic farm here? There may be other options.

Senator MacDonald: I was quoting you; I just want to finish the one quote. You also said, and I think you and I agree on this, there's a reason we need Parks Canada here; they're the ecological specialists. I agree with you on that.

Mr. Robb: They did up until March 2012.

Senator MacDonald: I still agree.

The Chair: Senator Eaton, you had a supplementary question.

Senator Eaton: On Senator MacDonald's first question about ecological integrity, do you see that applying to an urban park?

Mr. Robb: Here is what we put forward —

Senator Eaton: The term "ecological integrity."

Mr. Robb: Here is what we put forward. We started a zoning approach. What we were saying is, you scientifically define a sustainable natural heritage system that will protect and improve the landscape, will provide for trails for people, and then within that area you set an aspirational goal of ecological integrity. For the rest of the park, where there are farms, hamlets, park entrance areas, bed and breakfasts, maybe some small types of facilities, restaurants, you do that with a goal of net gain in watershed and ecosystem health, so it's zoning.

Senator Eaton: Getting back to the definition of" "ecological integrity," I was told that "ecological integrity" means you just let the land run free. If there's a forest fire in Banff, you don't necessarily put it out, or if there's flooding.

Mr. Robb: This is very unfortunate. Somebody chose this to try to mount their opposition. There are lots of national parks where you don't let fires run free. Where you let fires run free is in parks where fire is part of their succession, so northern parks with jack pine, you let them run free.

Senator Eaton: I understand that.

Mr. Robb: Banff doesn't let fires run free; Bruce Peninsula doesn't. They still have ecological integrity. Point Pelee doesn't let fires or flooding run free. They have ecological integrity.

Senator Eaton: There should be another definition, then. You mean some parks have really great ecological integrity and some parks are kind of so-so?

Mr. Robb: No.

Senator Eaton: You've got to define things.

Mr. Robb: Let me define it. Say you're a university student. If you go on a course and say, "I'm going to shoot for a B-minus," you'll probably get a C-minus or maybe a D.

Senator Eaton: But get back to integrity.

An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.

Senator Eaton: He's not.

The Chair: Senator Eggleton, just hang on.

Senator Eggleton: She's not showing respect. I think you had better call her to order for doing that.

Mr. Robb: I'm fine to answer it. Sorry, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: We'll have a question and an answer. That's what I want.

Mr. Robb: Ecological integrity, you go into something heading for an A or an A-plus, and you do your best, and if you get a B-plus or an A-minus, you do your best, that's what Rouge Park will be and future generations and the people who come behind you will say "good job." If you head into a park saying we're going to head for a C-plus because this park is really difficult and it's in a tough spot, you'll get a D or an E and future generations will go, "What were they thinking?"

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Eaton: He's not going to answer my question, thank you.

Mr. Robb: Sorry, I was trying.

Senator Massicotte: Obviously, all of you are very sincere. You mean well and we appreciate it. Senator Black made the same comment. Everybody intends the best for the park, so that's very good. Unfortunately, we all have different definitions of priorities, what is first and second.

Mr. Robb, you gave the impression also that if the advisory committee had been created or the management plan had been somewhat disclosed or discussed, that would maybe resolve the issues. Is that the case?

Mr. Robb: There would still be issues that decision-makers would have to deal with and use their wisdom, but I think it would have got us a lot closer. There would have been less distrust that happens when that statement, that inflammatory statement I made, is how they think I think. I don't think completely like that. I really think there are win-win solutions here.

Senator Massicotte: If the mechanics had been further advanced, maybe this suspicion about the use of words would have disappeared?

Mr. Robb: It's never going to disappear, but I can give you a couple of examples. The Rouge isn't the only one. There have been problems in trying to set up Bowen Island Park. I talk to the people there. There are problems with Kootenay. One of the problems is the system. It's really tough when you fly in people to a new area and you expect them to immediately understand 30 years of collective community wisdom and to codify that within legislation and policy. That's almost an impossible task. It's cliché. The rancher in Kootenay was saying the same thing I'm saying in Toronto. The dog walker on Bowen Island was saying the same thing I'm saying in Toronto.

You've got to spend time in a community to understand, to legislate, so that's what we're saying. Accept what's already there, over 25 years of public planning, and don't try to impose Ottawa's high vision on top of it.

Senator Massicotte: Everybody is sincere. We've had witnesses previous to you, and we got a detailed presentation, which is available on our site, where they actually said what is being proposed in the bill is superior to the provincial greenbelt.

Mr. Robb: I know.

Senator Massicotte: I appreciate that all of you are very sincere. There's a difference of opinion, but nobody is trying to mislead anybody. There is sincere difference of opinion with yours and other opinions as a consequence.

Mr. Robb: I agree. If you look at some of the other witnesses, they've each been involved for a period of time. Alan Wells was a wonderful chairman for the Rouge Park Alliance for five years. Larry Noonan has done some great work on the Altona Forest, in the periphery, not in the park. They all have a little glimpse of the elephant. I would put it to you that people who have worked on it for 30 years and been to thousands of community meetings, we have an overall view of the elephant.

Senator Massicotte: Let me go through specific, detailed questions and very specific answers. In proposed amendments by the Ontario minister, in paragraph 6 he basically used the words that he wants to give priority to the protection and restoration, effectively the park's ecosystem. Mr. Robb, "restoration" means what? Do we go back 500 years, 1,000 years, the ice age?

Mr. Robb: That's an excellent question. No, in fact, when one of the early explorers came through southern Ontario in 1500, he described this amazing — I recommend a book to you called The Once and Future Great Lakes Country, by a scientist from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, John Riley.

Senator Massicotte: You talk about the wording. What does the wording mean? The wording is restoration of the ecosystem.

Mr. Robb: What it means is along the watersheds and along the rivers we need to widen out the buffers to prevent runoff and flooding from polluting the downstream areas, the riparian rights of people, the lake, the beaches, our drinking water. If we are going to have development, and we are, we need to take some compensation in terms of the health nature, to be stronger. It means that the park longer term won't be 80 per cent private leases; it may be 50 per cent.

Senator Massicotte: You're looking for guidance from the bill. If you look at the bill, this became part of the bill, it's restoration of ecosystem, which means restoration, not partly developed.

Mr. Robb: I saw a copy of that thing and it actually talks about protection, improvement and restoration.

Senator Massicotte: I'll read it. It gives priority to protection, improvement and restoration, health, diversity and sustainability of the park's ecosystem.

Mr. Robb: It goes on to say "and it's agricultural."

Senator Massicotte: And watersheds.

My other point, Mr. Hébert-Daly, when you look at paragraph 6, you like things to be very clean; you like one priority, not four; but if I read this paragraph you've got seven priorities. We're not further ahead.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: That's why I'm not commenting on this until I've given it a lot more thought.

Senator Massicotte: That was my question.

Senator Mitchell: Some, if not the preponderance, of the questioning seems to be suggesting that somehow the proponents of a stronger delineation of park priorities and so on are wrong. You've consulted for years and planned for years and thousands of people have been involved in it. It would be absolutely, it seems to me, just as easy for the federal government to accept stronger wording, wording that would be not inconsistent with what it does with other parks in reasonable areas. I know you're not here as experts in politics, and I'm being inspired to be provocative by Senator Eaton. I wonder if you can give us some idea why you think the federal government might not just capitulate and say, "Yes, you're right, we should do it right. Why don't we strengthen it?"

Mr. Robb: When you get these issues, they come at you. The local MP might say, "I won't object to the park if you take care of agriculture and infrastructure, because I have these two issues." In fact, if you looked at the Conservative platform in I think it was 2010, before the election, it had this wonderful announcement of Rouge Park but it specifically stated we're going to protect the interests of agriculture and infrastructure, and those are legitimate interests, but I think sometimes the envelope gets pushed out of position by the interests of a few, including sometimes people like me who are vocal and get a lot of people to come to meetings, and that's why we need to look long term. In the long term, we have to think about the millions of people.

Southern Ontario has one four-hundredth of its land in national parks. If you go to Alberta it's 9.5 per cent. If you go to Manitoba it's about 2.5; Nova Scotia is about 2.5. We have one four-hundredth of our land protected. Southern Ontario is the most ecologically rich. It has one third of Canada's endangered species; it has one third of Canada's population and one four-hundredth of Canada's national parks.

We have this gift that came from pain. It was an expropriation by the federal Liberal government, provincial Progressive Conservative government, but it has ended up giving a gift to future generations. So you don't tie that gift up in a really weak bow; you tie it up in a strong bow, and the strong bow is strong law, strong policy.

Alison Woodley, National Director, Parks Program, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: I can't answer your specific question, Senator Mitchell, but I wonder if I might read a short paragraph that gets at what we are trying to explain here as CPAWS. We've spoken a lot about the international standard for what a protected area is and the essence of that standard being that prioritization of nature conservation, so I wanted to just read the guidance provided by IUCN about the definition of a protected area.

For IUCN, only those areas where the main objective is conserving nature can be considered protected areas; this can include many areas with other goals as well, at the same level, but in the case of conflict, nature conservation will be the priority.

IUCN is the international body that sets the standards for conservation for protected areas, the standards of what it means to be a protected area. In the management plan, Parks Canada has outlined that this will be an IUCN-protected area. It's okay to have multiple pillars, but the concern comes with, when those pillars come into conflict, how will the agency make decisions and what will the mandate be given to them to make decisions?

It's not about dismissing one pillar as less important in terms of its value. It's about being able to make decisions that will not result in this place being eaten away at over time and slowly degraded from decisions because of the pressures from visitors. There are 6 million people in the area around this park. That's all the more important that there's really strong legislation and clarity about what to do when the pressures encroach from visitor activities, from the various pressures from inside and outside the park that park managers will have to deal with.

Giving an equivalent kind of mandate and allowing Parks Canada to do that good work of working collaboratively with farmers and with others to manage this park is, at the end of the day, the concern we have.

Mr. Hébert-Daly: In fact, the bill has some very good strong elements that actually mandate and require collaboration between the parties. That's actually a very strong piece of the legislation that Mr. Buchanan mentioned as a highlight and we see it as a highlight as well. That collaboration is required and is necessary and is the key thing to being able to make sure the park actually has sustainability over the long term.

Mr. Buchanan: I just wanted to add what is the risk? It is that there are no national parks with agriculture, and the new model for the Rouge national urban park has viable agriculture, not just a token. I'm an ecologist and I've learned so much from working with farmers. As opposed to coming in with a stick and suggesting that because the environment is the priority, this is the way it shall be, it's that balanced framework with the other components of the policy and with the words that you used. Those words appear in the management plan draft in terms of protection, restoration and so on.

As soon as you provide a chink in the armour of that balance, you're providing leverage which is not a win for the park, and the past has shown that to be the case in Rouge Park.

Senator Mitchell: Back to what might be behind this, when you start layering on words which I think are essential like "restore and enhance," you can see where a government that's almost obsessively adverse to spending money on anything that some of us would think it should be spent on might find those words as incurring costs.

Is that really the case? Is it really going to cost money to establish this as better, stronger?

Mr. Robb: You can take back some of that $143 million if you give the north Pickering lands.

An Hon. Senator: You shouldn't say that.

An Hon. Senator: Be careful what you say. Be careful what you wish for.

Mr. Robb: But I'm being honest here, and we would prefer if some of that money got put in a trust fund because it's going out the door too quickly — I think $17 million for surveys. When David Crombie asked us about the park in 1994, the federal government had donated $10 million and the province $10 million. The province money just went out the door so quickly. We said to David Crombie, "Please get that $10 million from the federal government, put it in a trust fund, put it in an ethical fund that earns money and then have the park live off the interest."

We are actually small C conservatives, conservationists, and we want the land more than the money. In terms of what your question is, Friends of the Rouge Watershed has a very small budget, but we get corporate donations, municipal, federal — the federal government has been a great partner — provincial.

We actually had to bid on some planting things in the park, and we did them for one quarter of what the value was estimated to be, so we are a non-profit group. We take kids out; we plant trees; we teach them about nature; we work with communities.

One of the reasons I got involved with Friends of the Rouge Watershed was, when we went to David Peterson, he was skeptical about this too. He said, "We don't have much money in the cupboard. This could be a big expense." We said, "There are so many thousands of people who want to help the park. We will pitch in and coordinate volunteers and help you do things." So when I left the environmental assessment board, I felt I had to get back and help with that, so we have coordinated 51,000 volunteers to help put woodchips on trails, plant trees, pick up litter and do things.

Parks Canada will bring a professionalism that we need in the park and wardens and things, but you never want to lose that aspect of community involvement. It will keep your costs down.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Mitchell.

I really don't have a question, but to me you said there are some things you wish you could take back sometimes. I wouldn't be telling the federal government to take some money back. To be perfectly frank, living in British Columbia, if they were going to give money and I said, "You know what, we don't want that money," my friends would lynch me in the back room.

Here we have an opportunity for the first urban national park in Canada, with the federal government, I guess as you're saying, actually putting a lot of money into it. We have a park. Parks Canada is renowned around the world for what they do. Anyone that has been in any of our parks knows that. They do a very good job.

Sitting around trying to figure out how many angels you can dance on the head of a pin for a project this big, if it goes ahead, I guarantee you in a decade or less all that will be forgotten and everybody will be happy with what's going on. In fact, it would take less than a decade.

There are probably many places in Canada that would actually like to have what is proposed here, and from what you told me, from the 1980s — from the 1980s, my goodness, you're finally getting there, from the 1980s — been working on it. Let's get on with it. Let's get a park. Let's get a national urban park and get on with doing the good work of running that park.

In any case, you don't have to answer that. That's just a statement from the chair. I take my prerogative to do that and the meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)