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

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, most of Bill S-15 that concerns me relates to Sable Island.

I look at what is being proposed for Marmot Basin and recognize that a tremendous amount of work has been done. When it was first being proposed, there was a real paucity of scientific data and a real lack of understanding of what needed to be done to protect the caribou. These management plans have come a long way. They will take careful monitoring, because, as the hon. member knows, there is always a tension in our national parks system between the overriding goal, which is to maintain the ecological integrity of these parks, and the flip side of human enjoyment, which includes things such as ski hills and tourism.

Would my hon. friend agree with me that we must ensure that our national parks system is not eroded by allowing industrial activity to encroach on national parks? They have always maintained the highest level of protection, the gold standard, the highest International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, qualifications, which really mandate that ecological integrity is job one. Would the hon. member agree?

James Rajotte: Mr. Speaker, I certainly share the view of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the sense that within our national parks, there is obviously a tension between any development that may occur to ensure that people have the opportunity to enjoy these parks and ensuring that the ecologically sensitive areas and the natural state people want to go there to enjoy is actually preserved.

In this case, with respect to Marmot Basin, the ski area has offered to remove from its lease and return to the park 118 hectares of ecologically sensitive land. In exchange, 60 hectares of land in a less ecologically sensitive area will be made available to that operator. I think this is, frankly, a very good solution going forward.

I go to Elk Island National Park on a regular basis, just outside the city of Edmonton. I love going there. I love hiking through the park, but I realize that every time I go there, I am, to some extent, as a human being, disturbing that natural area. We have to stick to the paths and recognize that we are in the beauty of a national park, but we have to very much recognize the human impact. It is very much a balance, and the government, in this case, has actually found that balance very well.