Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deadline Looms for Those Seeking Heritage Status for Canadian Lighthouses

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deadline Looms for Those Seeking Heritage Status for Canadian Lighthouses

Article excerpt

Heritage lighthouse process slowed: critic

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HALIFAX - The future for scores of Canada's surplus lighthouses will be revealed within the next 90 days as the federal government is required by law to make public a list of the structures it considers worthy of a heritage designation.

But a former president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society says the list won't be long enough.

Barry MacDonald, who has worked for 17 years to protect lighthouses across the country, says Ottawa's five-year plan to transfer ownership of surplus lighthouses to community groups, individuals and other levels of government has been bogged down by a lack of funding and environmental obstacles.

Of the 970 lighthouses and other beacons declared surplus in 2010, 348 have been the subject of public petitions for preservation under the federal Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Community groups have also submitted 154 business plans to make the lighthouses sustainable tourism enterprises.

Under the act, it's up to the minister responsible for Parks Canada, Leona Aglukkaq, to decide by Friday which lighthouses should receive heritage status. But she has another three months to release the list.

Nova Scotia Conservative MP Scott Armstrong revealed in Parliament this week that the government has granted heritage status to 74 lighthouses -- 32 of which will be transferred to community groups or other levels of government. The other 42 will remain active aids to navigation owned by the Crown.

"It's a very low number, in my opinion," says MacDonald, arguing that the Harper government has moved slowly on the file because the act was based on a 2008 bill from the Senate, which can't authorize the spending of public funds.

"They had to find money from existing budgets," he says. "Resources were lacking."

As well, MacDonald says it appears Ottawa is backing away from a commitment to repair and clean up sites where concerns have been raised about contaminated structures and soil.

"It was brought to the attention of the federal government that it was not fair to burden communities with environmental cleanups and major repairs," he says. "The federal government agreed that the liability should not be on these communities. …

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