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Hyer (GP) questions the Government about the Lake Superior national marine conservation area

June 15, 2015

House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 2nd Sess, No 231 (15 June 2015) at 15110.



  • Mr. Speaker, on May 15, I asked once again in the House why the Prime Minister has not kept the promises he made in 2007 and 2009 to create the Lake Superior national marine conservation area, the NMCA, and allocate and spend $20 million that he promised for that purpose, including a visitor centre and administration building in the town of Nipigon.

    While the Prime Minister proclaimed in Nipigon, “there is no goal more worthy than the protection and preservation of Canada’s natural environment”, eight years later little has been done.

    Two years later, in 2009, the Prime Minister repeated his promise, which encouraged the Town of Nipigon to begin investing heavily in waterfront development. After eight years of waiting, the Town of Nipigon has yet to see a penny of that promised $20 million. Instead, the Conservatives have actually cut staff in Canada’s national parks.

    Nipigon is not the only town in Thunder Bay—Superior North that has waited fruitlessly for eight years. Towns and first nations along the spectacular north shore are all still waiting, including Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Pays Plat, Red Rock, Dorion, Shuniah, and Thunder Bay. I have been waiting a long time too.

    In 1980, when I was a board member for the Wildlands League, we proposed this idea in our publication Wilderness Now. Later, Jake Vander Wal and I helped to co-create the Lake Superior Binational Forum and binational program, of which I was the first Canadian co-chair. Then I fought, along with Joanie and Gary McGuffin, for the creation of the Great Lakes heritage coast, which was later killed by the Ontario Liberal government.

    There is a lot of blame to go around on why protection has been delayed for 35 years. I re-asked that question of our Prime Minister on Friday exactly a month ago. Five days later, like magic, or should I say like smoke and mirrors, Nipigon received a letter reaffirming that commitment. Then, on June 2, the Minister of the Environment introduced Bill C-61, called the Lake Superior national marine conservation area act.

    That is great. However, I ask this question. Was this in response to my once again calling the Prime Minister to task, or is it part of a cynical plan to introduce a whole bunch of bills at the last minute of our parliamentary sitting with no real intent to pass them, or perhaps both?

    The government has rammed a lot of dubious and contentious legislation through the House in far less than a month. I urge it to pass this important bill quickly. I doubt that anyone on the opposition side would oppose unanimous consent to create this ecologically important and long-awaited conservation area.

    While the Conservatives continue to claim that they are somehow contributing to the preservation of the “world’s largest freshwater protected area”, eight years later, north shore towns are still waiting.

    Lake Superior is facing the effects of a warming climate. It has reached record low levels, 10 centimetres below the previous low recorded in 1926. The lake is 5o warmer than it was 30 years ago, and ice is down a whopping 80%. Lake Superior is one of the most important bodies of water in the world. It holds about 10% of the planet’s fresh water, and biological diversity there is decreasing.

    Eight long years ago, the people of Nipigon were told that they were going to receive federal funding for NMCA. Where is it? Will the Prime Minister finally keep his promise?

    Mr. Bruce Hyer

    Thunder Bay—Superior North, GP

  • Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to protecting the environment. Since we formed government, we have created two national marine conservation areas, three marine protected areas, three national wildlife areas, four national parks, one urban national park, and a national historic site. The total area of land we have protected is equal to an area about twice the size of Vancouver Island.

    [Translation]

    Our government announced the creation of the Lake Superior national marine conservation area in October 2007. We committed to investing $36 million to cover the operating and capital costs of creating the largest freshwater protected area in Canada on Lake Superior’s north shore.

    [English]

    The Lake Superior national marine conservation area, the NMCA, comprises more than 10,000 square kilometres of the lake and includes lakebed, islands, and north shorelands. Establishing an NMCA in Lake Superior contributes to Canada’s national conservation plan, the NCP, with concrete action to conserve Canada’s lands and waters and connect Canadians to nature, while contributing to the NCP goals of encouraging local initiatives and partnerships that will lead to positive results.

    On Tuesday, June 2, Bill C-61, an act to amend the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, was introduced in the House of Commons to formally establish the area. In 2009 Parks Canada announced the township of Nipigon as the selected location for the Lake Superior national marine conservation area administrative centre. We stand by this commitment, and Parks Canada executives have recently met with officials of the township of Nipigon to confirm this commitment.

    [Translation]

    Our government is also committed to working with the first nations, local communities and other stakeholders to create a world-class tourist destination and attract visitors so that they can discover the beauty of Lake Superior’s north shore.

    [English]

    Bill C-61 concludes almost two decades of work to make this new protected area a reality by formally protecting Canada’s spectacular Lake Superior under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act. At the same time, Bill C-61 will open the door to realizing the environmental, economic, and social benefits that many north shore communities along Lake Superior, from Thunder Bay to Terrace Bay, have envisioned throughout the establishment process.

    This legislation would formally protect an outstanding example of Canada’s marine environment and would provide opportunities for Canadians to experience the nature and culture of this vast marine landscape. This action demonstrates our government’s leadership in conservation.

    As we complete the establishment phase and foster important partnerships with northern communities, the tourism sector, and aboriginal peoples, we look forward to increased visitation and strengthened local economies in this very special place.

    [Translation]

    Investments in the region have already helped develop and promote tourism initiatives for the communities, especially with respect to trails, interpretation facilities and community infrastructure, and they will continue to do so in years to come.

    [English]

    Mr. Colin Carrie

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment, CPC

  • Mr. Speaker, that is some commitment. More pretty words, but when? This week? This Parliament?

    I ask the question again today. I have not heard a straight answer. Will our Prime Minister keep his word? Will he seek unanimous consent by all parties in the House for the legal creation of the Lake Superior national marine conservation area before the House rises? Did the Prime Minister really mean what he said in Nipigon eight years ago, when he said that “There is no goal more worthy than the protection and preservation of Canada’s natural environment.”?

    Where is the promised money? Where is the real legislation, passed in the House, for the Lake Superior national marine conservation area? Those who care passionately about Lake Superior are waiting.

    Mr. Bruce Hyer

    Thunder Bay—Superior North, GP

  • Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to honour our commitments made to the north shore region of Lake Superior. The township of Nipigon will remain as the centre of operations and be marked with a Parks Canada presence that will promote the interpretation of the site’s natural and cultural heritage and enhance local economies.

    Bill C-61 sets the stage for the legal and formal protection of one of the largest freshwater marine protected areas in the world dedicated to conservation.

    [Translation]

    Mr. Colin Carrie

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment, CPC

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