Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act (Bill S-15)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I deeply regret that time allocation is being used on this bill. I sympathize enormously with the statement from the hon. member for Halifax. It is critical that we protect Sable Island properly. A Sable Island national park is something we all want, but not at the expense of undermining the integrity of the national parks system by allowing the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to have rights to pass regulations that affect a national park. This is unprecedented.

Contrary to what the minister just said, environmental groups have contacted me from Nova Scotia, deeply concerned. They do not want the bill to pass in its current form, and they want to protect the integrity of the national parks system.

It requires full debate. Abbreviating that debate and pushing it through at the last minute is not only an affront to democracy. It is an affront to the integrity of the national parks system across this country.

Hon. Peter Kent: Mr. Speaker, I again thank my colleague for her input and her observations.

However, I would remind her, again, that in the consideration of this bill, in the public consultations, including consultations with environmental NGOs and with first nations in Nova Scotia, there has been widespread consensus on exactly how and under what conditions, stipulations and regulations this new national park would be created.

This bill was introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature on April 24, second reading was on April 25, third reading was on May 6 and it received royal assent on May 10. In debate, the Liberal House leader said:

…we look forward to this bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee and making its way through the House and…in conjunction with the federal government, we will soon see the official declaration of Sable Island as Canada’s 43rd…park.

The same was heard from the Progressive Conservatives, and of course from the NDP government, wishing us well and hoping this could be passed into law and proclaimed this year.

With regard to the agreement with the oil and gas industry, this is in fact a protection of the island. We would not be in this House today considering the creation of Sable Island as a fully protected national park without the initiative and co-operation of the oil and gas sector. They have agreed to forego leases held for some years, potentially lucrative leases.

The agreement provides for the park to extend to the beaches at low tide with a further one nautical mile buffer zone to prevent any offshore activity. The foremost expert on Sable Island, Zoe Lucas, has been very forthright in saying that the limited activity in the past and what will be permitted in the future is of very low impact and is not expected to disrupt either the habitat or any of the species on the island.