Text of Submission Below:
Submission to “Let’s Talk Parks, Canada!” Consultation
To: The Honourable Minister McKenna
From: Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader, Green Party of Canada
Date: January 27, 2017
Dear Minister McKenna,
I am writing to contribute to the “Let’s Talk Parks, Canada!” consultation. I have also submitted my letter on the consultation website. While I appreciate that the Liberal Government is opening these consultations up to the Canadian public, I am surprised that this consultation period is so very brief.
There is much work to be done if we are to reverse the damage done by the previous government and protect our National Parks. As you know, Canadians care. Polls reveal that 90% of Canadians consider time spent in natural areas as children very important; 85% participate regularly in nature-related activities; 98% view nature as essential to human survival.
In the mandate letter for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change it is stipulated that our National Parks be protected by limiting development within them. Given the free admission at National Parks this year, it is especially important that we commit to the conservation and integrity of parks across the country.
The most serious blow to the integrity of our National Parks system was the 2013 Sable Island National Park Act. This iconic Nova Scotia island is famous for its dunes and wild ponies. The Green Party was the only party to oppose the legislation that allowed for seismic testing inside the park and directional oil and gas drilling under it. The legislation for Sable Island National Park places the Canada-Nova Scotia Off-Shore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) as the key regulator. The CNSOPB only has to inform Parks Canada about oil and gas activities inside the park – not even consult in advance. Just as was done with the amendments to improve the Rouge Valley Urban Park legislation, I urge you to revisit the Sable Island National Park legislation to restore the fundamental principle that resource extraction and resource activity is incompatible with national park status.
At the same time, the boundaries of the new national park adjacent to Nahanni, the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, were approved leaving out key and critical areas. The new park is 4 895 square kilometres, but omits key habitat for woodland caribou, grizzlies, Dall’s sheep, and mountain goats. The areas excluded from the park plan are those with mineral potential. According to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: “…this park boundary does not reflect the extensive scientific evidence of what’s needed to protect the Nahanni watershed, nor does it take into account the overwhelming public support for protecting the entire Nahanni headwaters expressed during the public consultation on the proposed park.”
The attack by stealth on our national parks system is also occurring through moves to privatize activities inside existing parks. I want to thank you for putting a stop to the appalling Mother Canada project in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, but more needs to be done.
With the 10% budget cuts to Parks Canada in 2012, pressure built to generate cash flow. The slippery slope started with the ice walkway within Jasper. This iconic national park, recognized with IUCN World Heritage status, now has a privately run, for-profit, structure. Brewster Travel Canada, a U.S.-based company, was allowed – over huge protest – to build a 400-metre skywalk and glass-floored observation deck suspended from a cliff face over the Columbia Icefields.
Meanwhile, in parks across Canada the level of maintenance, park interpretation and science to appreciate and protect ecological integrity is in dangerous decline. In my constituency, the Gulf Islands National Park has experienced a serious decline in staffing. The condition of the forest is declining. Visitors complain of a lack of proper servicing of washrooms on Saturna Island. A few summers ago, parks staff sent a message to fire departments in the area that they lacked capacity to respond to fires within the park. The situation is serious. Meanwhile, across the country, in Fortress Louisbourg, the number of interpretative staff has been slashed. The visitor experience is also significantly diminished.
While the Agency seems to have lost sight of its mandate to protect nature, its scientific, cultural, heritage and conservation capacity has been diminished. It is a real source of concern that when asked directly in the Standing Committee on the Environment about the funding levels in Parks Canada, senior staff denied they need more resources. The reality is that our parks are in real trouble. The 10% funding cut came on top of earlier cuts. A significant replenishment of A-base funding is required.
This government must commit to reversing the dangerous moves of the Harper administration undermining fundamental principles of ecological integrity in our national parks and devaluing park protection, with firm and unwavering action to protect existing parks and expand our terrestrial and marine park systems. We must rapidly establish ‘no-take’ marine parks as a last chance to save our vast tracts of critically-threatened and over-fished coastlines.
With this in mind, I recommend:
● Restore funding to Parks Canada to ensure science can be conducted in our national parks;
● Amend the Sable Island National Park Act to remove the authorities of the Canada-Nova Scotia Off-shore Petroleum Board and re-affirm that industrial activities have no place in our national parks;
● Enforce previous policies that precluded private sector and privatized for-profit activities within national parks;
● Re-commit to the completion of the national parks system that consists of a representative network of Canada’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems, setting a target date of 2030 with emphasis on:
○ Fast-tracking the establishment of ‘no-take’ marine protected areas: consultation with fisheries communities and sectors is essential, drawing on experience from New Zealand and elsewhere where ‘no-take’ areas have actually improved the economically viable fisheries;
○ Extending, in partnership with provinces, territories, and Aboriginal peoples, Canada’s network of land, freshwater, and marine protected areas and linking them up with provincial and territorial protected areas wherever possible, and establishing compatible-use buffer zones around national parks for the maintenance of natural biological diversity and ecosystem health;
○ Providing Parks Canada with the funding necessary to protect the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks.
● And to achieve our international biodiversity commitments: ○ Ensure federal funding to meet our Aichi targets – protecting 17% of our land and inland waters and 10% of our coastal areas by 2020; ○ Establish a National Parks Completion Budget of $500 million annually to meet the goal of completing our National Parks and Marine Protected Areas Systems by 2030;
○ Implement the recommendations of conservation scientists for effective action to preserve:
1. Critically threatened habitats;
2. Keystone species, endangered species, and species of commercial or cultural value, especially those of value to First Nations communities;
3. Habitats specifically threatened by climate change;
4. Continuous interconnected tracts of habitat for wide-range migrating species sufficient to maintain viable populations.
● Advocate the purchase of private land, where necessary, to help protect critical habitats, especially of endangered species;
● Increase monitoring and protection efforts, including an increase in the number of park rangers and guides with interpretation skills to educate Canadians and visitors on the vast beauty and value of our national parks;
● Work with provincial and territorial governments to end all trophy hunting in Canada while supporting subsistence hunting by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians of wild animals that are not threatened or endangered.
Again, thank you for undertaking this consultation. I would be more than happy to meet with you and your staff to discuss this important issue further.
Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich – Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada