article by GRACE KENNEDY
Aug. 9, 2018 12:20 p.m.
“Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag is heading up a new petition with the hope that it could help increase federal support for heritage initiatives.
“I think there’s both monetary and non-monetary things that the federal government can do related to heritage conservation,” Aldag said. “I think that we have not really met those expectations.
“There’s an opportunity there and that’s what I’m trying to advance … through this petition.”
Earlier this year, Aldag was asked to sponsor the petition by the National Trust for Canada, a national non-profit that advocates for heritage across the country. Accepting was hardly a question.
“I’m a strong supporter of the preservation of our built heritage,” Aldag said. “It helps us understand where we’ve come from as a country and as Canadians.
“I see that in many places we’re losing that heritage,” he continued. “I think that’s a tragedy.”
The petition, which went live on July 11, calls on the federal government to create a multi-million dollar heritage fund in the 2019 budget, as well as to provide federal leadership for historic places.
The petition doesn’t call for the fund to be distributed to particular places, so long as the money goes to support Indigenous and charitable ventures to save and renew historic places, or encourage private investment and philanthropy in heritage sites.
There are some funds that would be ready to receive this kind of money if it was part of the 2019 budget, including Parks Canada’s cost-sharing program. This fund often has more applications than it can fund; for the first two years that the Liberal government was in power, the budget was increased to $10 million each year. It has now gone back down to $1 million, the same amount the fund had before the Liberal election.
“It’s better than nothing, but frankly, from my perspective, it’s unacceptable for the federal government to be giving that low of level of investment,” Aldag said. “That’s why I’m very supportive of the National Trust trying to get additional funds for heritage.”
The petition’s proposed fund could also go to support as-yet un-created programs to promote reconciliation initiatives around residential schools or private sector investment in urban heritage buildings.
As of Aug. 9, the petition has more than 1,100 signatures, which Aldag believes is above the threshold needed to get a tabled response in the House of Commons (which means the government will respond to the request in the petition) this fall.
“Hopefully that will trigger investment in the 2019 budget, and perhaps inform my party’s platform going into the next election, as well as perhaps other parties,” he said.