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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

• 1541

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): All right, we have quorum, therefore we can start. We apologize to everybody in this room for the delay in beginning.

We welcome to this meeting, which is called under Standing Order 81(4), the minister, the deputy minister, the officials, and Mr. Derouin, who are here for the first time. Mr. Gershberg is already an old timer, so we welcome him again, as well as the officials in the room and the members of the public.

[Translation]

I would like to welcome everyone, of course. We will begin immediately by reviewing appropriations 1, 5, 10 and 15 of the Main Estimates under the heading Environment for fiscal year 2000-2001.

[English]

Mr. Minister, the floor is yours, and we welcome you. We are glad to see you are making fantastic progress with your recovery, and we hope we'll see you at the next marathon.

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do recollect paying an awful lot of money to you for your fine work in the cross-country marathon. I believe I spent.... Well, I believe you did 77 kilometres, which is really very commendable.

To switch to another subject, Mr. Chairman, before I begin this presentation, I would like to say that I welcome and congratulate you on the report on pesticides you released very recently. It has already sparked an excellent debate that has the newspapers talking about less pesticide use and improved methods of achieving quality lawns or attractive vegetables without pesticides. I think the debate is going to be very productive. So congratulations to you.

I naturally am looking forward to the minority report, which I have not yet seen, which I'm sure will add to the debate as well. There are some important issues that you've raised, discussed, and done a good job on.

I presume the bell started just as I started to warn me to be brief.

If I could, I'd like to quickly talk about the plans and priorities of Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the year 2000-01. This is the first year of the millennium, and it's a very appropriate time to discuss long-term plans and policies.

As minister, I have some concrete priorities that I want to share with you, but I do want to speak to the very basic question, i.e., the need to improve the way we think about the environment and the solutions we employ. Around this table, we have many who have contributed dramatically to that debate of changing attitudes and talking about improved ways of doing things. I call it a new architecture for environmental management, but again, I think most people in this room well understand the need for dealing with the environment in better ways.

• 1545

There are three trends, to start with, that are steering us toward that new environmental architecture.

Human activity and an increasing human population is placing, in many parts of the world, an unsustainable burden on the ecosphere. The evidence of climate change caused by human-produced greenhouse gases is the most obvious example, but ozone depletion, desertification in Africa and western China, and the worldwide loss of groundwater are other examples of very disturbing worldwide trends where human activity is literally changing the face of the planet and changing it irrevocably.

A second element I'd like to stress is the resurgence of public concern, and once again I congratulate you, with reports such as you issued yesterday being part of that resurgence in public concern with environmental issues and a shift in public values in favour of increased environmental action. As elected people, we hear about these issues from our constituents, and I fully expect this trend to continue.

The third point I'd make, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, is that the marketplace is not the marketplace of 10, 15, or 25 years ago. The marketplace is learning that environmentally unsound business practices are unsustainable and unacceptable to consumers. The real leaders in the business community have learned that environmental change is necessary to remaining competitive in business—i.e., good ecology is good business. And that's a very important trend that we can take advantage of.

So those three trends, quickly, suggest that we look at the environment in new ways. They provide opportunity and call upon us to develop better systems of management. Within the new architecture of management, I believe there are three roles for government, which I want to emphasize: the first is knowledge, the second is incentives, and the third is partnerships.

Knowledge begins with solid science, which must be the basis of our environmental policies. If we don't have the science right, it's unlikely we'll get the policy right, and we will not get the management right. Not only do we need scientific research to discover the facts, but we also need to make that scientific research available to people, in particular the people who need it: consumers, governments, policy-makers, businesses, and others. It also means environmental indicators that are as rigorously measured and monitored as the gross domestic product or the consumer price index. We must get those indices of environmental performance.

We are in the process, I should add, of developing new environmental indicators, and I think that's some of the most exciting work that has been happening in recent years.

To return to incentives, we have had a traditional command-and-control approach in the area of environment. We have not succeeded effectively to date in harnessing the forces of competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship to make the environment cleaner and safer. It has been a “them and us” situation, command-and-control, where “they” try to avoid the regulation and spend enormous amounts of energy and time—and money.

So instead of that system, which we've had, I'd like to see that energy, time, and money put in a positive sense of achieving the environmental goals.

That means, of course, a greener tax structure. And once again, that's something I've discussed with virtually every member in this room at one stage or another. It also means market-based incentives, because with those two things we're likely to get market forces moving in the right direction, achieving our goals more effectively and more quickly.

We obviously have to encourage companies that are finding those new and better ways of doing sustainable business. We have to find ways of rewarding those who will pilot new technologies and new practices, and we must, at the same time, offer disincentives to companies that continue in traditional methods of waste and pollution.

The right incentives will not only protect and improve the environment, but will help Canada gain a competitive advantage in industries of the future, because the environment is part of the productivity agenda not just in Canada but around the world.

[Translation]

The third government tool is increased use of partnerships. Everyone involved in developing environmental policies plays unique but complementary roles.

• 1550

Governments still fulfil the traditional custodial role expected by Canadians, but we need to be in the forefront of environmental protection as well.

This also makes us a leader on the international scene. Many countries are ahead of us, and Canada needs to remain competitive.

Governments also know that they cannot accomplish all of this on their own. We need to form partnerships with businesses, environmental protection groups, scientists, Aboriginal communities, and other governments and individuals who will make it possible for us to play our own role more effectively. The government can facilitate and co-ordinate these partnerships, acting not only in a control capacity, but also as the orchestra conductor, helping all parties play in harmony with the others.

Knowledge, incentives and partnerships are also the keys to our environmental future and I will take these as my reference points when considering environmental priorities over the coming year.

The Government of Canada's commitment to the environment is made clear in the Speech from the Throne, which reaffirmed that a clean and healthy environment is essential to maintain Canada's high standard of living. The year 2000 budget confirms this commitment by earmarking over $700 million, making it the largest government ecology expenditure, to promote clean air and water, and to provide more effective methods and ways of taking action in communities across the country.

[English]

Because environmental issues cut across all sectors, spending in other areas of budget 2000 also contributes to sustainable development goals and sets the stage for continued progress on incentives, science, and partnerships. Budget 2000 provides more than $4 billion to promote innovation and leading-edge research and to strengthen Canada's federal, provincial, and territorial infrastructure. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have stressed the importance of a significant green infrastructure component to this federal investment in municipal infrastructure over the next few years.

Budget 2000 clearly reflects the government's determination to meet environmental challenges consistent with building a productive, innovative, knowledge-based economy and working through partnerships with municipalities, provinces, and other countries in the private sector.

Let me now outline goals and priorities that I have as Minister of the Environment for the coming year. First, ensuring that Canadians have clean air and water is a very important issue. That's top priority. Second is preserving species at risk. Third is responding to the threat of climate change. And fourth is reviewing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. There are, I might add, other priorities, but rather than getting into an extensive list, let me just deal with those four now.

I also want to say something about our national weather service, which is a major component of Environment Canada's activity and the government agency that has the closest contact, in terms of people phoning in or getting in touch with them, of any government department, even including Revenue Canada.

I want to address those areas if I could, Mr. Chairman, and then open the floor to questions. If that's agreeable with you, I'll do that.

Let me start with clean air and clean water. In a recent Ekos Research survey, Canadians selected air and water quality as their third highest priority for the next ten years, ahead of lowering taxes, ahead of eliminating the debt, ahead of technological innovation. Only two things were ahead: overall quality of life and health care. They were rated higher. I should point out that when you talk about overall quality of life, frequently the environment enters in as a component. When you think about it, the quality of the air and the water directly affects our health as well.

Air quality is vital to public health and safety, and the evidence shows that Canada is failing in this vital area. It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 premature deaths each year caused by airborne pollution. Asthma, strongly linked to air pollution, accounts for some 25% of all children's absences from school. No wonder a 1999 Environics poll indicated that air pollution was rated as the environmental issue of most concern to Canadians.

• 1555

As minister, my job is to make sure air quality is the major concern for the coming decade. My goal is to significantly reduce deaths and illnesses caused by air pollution from all sources in the 10 years to come.

We can meet that goal through a series of strong measures to improve air quality: first, rigorous Canada-wide standards for mercury and benzene and for levels of particulate matter and ozone; second, enhancing the federal smog plan with new measures to reduce emissions in the transportation sector and in industrial activities; third, negotiating a new ozone reduction agreement with the United States, which will be done this year; fourth, limiting the level of sulphur in Canadian gasoline, of which you may have read something recently with regard to complaints of two companies who feel we're moving too quickly; fifth, developing a post-2000 acid rain strategy, building on the successes we've had under the original 1980 Canada/United States Acid Rain Accord; and sixth, taking action on climate change that will, in addition, lead to low-level clean air benefits.

To achieve that, again, green incentives and market-based mechanisms will be important.

That is a basic outline of the clean air agenda. The commitment to clean air is the centrepiece of the government's strategy to enhance the overall quality of our environment and therefore the quality of life.

I might add, Mr. Speaker, that this is an issue across the country, but if there's any area that should be singled out as holding this area as most important, it would have to be the St. Lawrence system, the Great Lakes, where we get substantial amounts of pollutants coming from the United States into Canada, which adds, of course, to our own major contributions to the poor quality of air.

[Translation]

Like air, clean fresh water is essential to the quality of life of the people of Canada. Water is perhaps our most precious resource. Approximately 9% of renewable fresh water reserves are located in Canada. We are therefore responsible, both for ourselves and the rest of the planet, and must assume stewardship of this resource.

One simple thing that we can do is continue our work to clean up Canada's Great Lakes. It is urgent that we renew the Canada/Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality, and I am here to tell this Committee that the Government of Canada is prepared to commit itself. We are awaiting the response of the Government of the Province of Ontario.

Canada's abundant supply of clean water is tempting to those who want to use massive quantities of fresh water for commercial purposes. That is why last year, the Government of Canada introduced measures to protect against the threat of removal of massive amounts of water.

The Federal government has made changes to prevent massive amounts of water along our border from being removed. In November, together with eight provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada requested that a pan-Canadian agreement prohibit any massive removal of water from Canadian watersheds. I will be meeting my provincial counterparts again in three weeks and will continue to urge the other provinces to sign the Agreement.

The new infrastructure measures announced in the recent federal budget are also crucial to our water strategy. Water quality and waste water treatment methods used locally and regionally are an essential infrastructure priority. The new infrastructure program will enable us to work in partnership with the provinces and municipalities to move this type of ecological infrastructure project forward on a priority basis.

• 1600

[English]

The twin challenges of preserving clean air and fresh water is one of the most important goals I have as minister, and I believe it is vital to the quality of life of all Canadians.

The second priority, Mr. Chairman, is Canada's diversity of plant and animal species. As you know, recently we tabled the new Species at Risk Act, Bill C-33. I believe we're long overdue in Canada for such comprehensive pan-Canadian legislation. The bill will provide concrete protection to every species of bird, animal, fish, plant, or insect at risk in Canada regardless of where it lives, be it resident on federal property, provincial crown land, private land, or wherever.

I know this committee will be studying this bill in more detail, and I look forward to being with you in that study, but let me say at this time that my priority is to give Canadians a bill that will effectively protect species on the ground. I do not want something that works only in the courts or in the classrooms. Bill C-33 asks how we can make it in people's interest to do as much as possible to protect species and habitat out there where it counts. It is not how we force people to do the bare minimum.

Now, to create a bill that is effective, I think we have to consider and balance stakeholders, all stakeholders—environmental organizations, landowners, provincial governments, aboriginal communities, and individual Canadians—and find ways for them to work together. We are relying on voluntary and incentive measures, such as stewardship, to encourage landowners and other stakeholders to cooperate in preserving species, but the federal government also retains strong enforcement powers that we will not hesitate to use if necessary. I think this bill strikes a balance and will help bring people together to actually save species.

Let me repeat, this bill will fail, and fail completely, to achieve the objectives we have as a government and I know this committee has if we do not have willing support from people who work on the land, from ranchers, from farmers, from trappers, from fishermen, and from people who work in the woods. If there isn't a level of confidence in this legislation from the people who are actually out there in the habitats of these plants and animals, we will have failed as parliamentarians in creating effective legislation.

My third major priority is coordinating Canada's response to the threat of climate change, which is a responsibility I share with Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Natural Resources.

[Translation]

Globally, climate change may constitute the greatest threat to our quality of life. Increasingly accurate empirical weather trend data show that 1997 and 1998 were the hottest years since scientific temperature measurement began around 1860. According to climatologists, 1998 could well have been the hottest year in the past 1,200 years.

The intergovernmental group of experts on climate change concluded in 1995 that the global climate could heat up by two degrees over the next century. More recent estimates, including those prepared by the Environment Canada climate model, one of the most accurate and highly developed in the world, indicates that the figure could even higher.

This could result in a temperature increase in Canada of approximately 4 «C. To put this information in perspective, during the last ice age, world temperatures were only 4 « to 6 « lower than they are today. These changes are even more marked in the Canadian Arctic.

Such a rapid and unheard of temperature increase would have a significant effect on Canada's population, and many of these effects could be devastating: droughts in the Prairies, loss of forests, the risk of violent weather phenomena, such as more floods and ice storms. In the Arctic, ice is melting already and there have been significant impacts on Northern ecosystems.

• 1605

[English]

That is why, at Kyoto, the Prime Minister committed Canada to reducing its output of greenhouse gases by 6% below 1990 levels between the years 2008 and 2012. In effect, this means reducing greenhouse gases by some 25% or 26% below the business-as-usual level.

The Government of Canada is developing a national implementation strategy to detail how we will meet our Kyoto targets. That will be presented to the provincial ministers and me when we meet again at the end of the summer—I believe in October of this year. The outlines of the strategy, however, if not the details, are clear.

First, we need more energy conservation measures, and we need improved energy efficiency throughout the entire community. Much of what we will be doing with respect to climate change will be about energy efficiency.

Second, we need to diversify our energy sources, intelligently using our current energy sources and developing alternative fuels and alternative energy sources.

Third, we need to develop market-based incentive approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as domestic emissions trading, and we need to develop and deploy new technology to reduce greenhouse gases, an area that presents Canada with great promise due to our advanced environmental industries.

So those are some of the measures we will have to bring in if Canada is to meet the Kyoto targets. To get there—and we must, and we are committed to that—all Canadians, whether in government, business, or individual citizens and consumers, will have to realize and respond to the serious dangers that global climate change poses to our way of life. The national implementation strategy, with the support of the measures announced in budget 2000, will be the means by which Canadians respond to that challenge.

Let me turn now to the five-year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As members know, in December of last year I launched the five-year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, CEAA, with the release of a discussion paper that reported on how the act had operated in its first five years and outlined some of the options where improvements could be made.

National public consultations were successfully completed by March 31. This was a comprehensive consultation that saw 14,000 visits to the CEAA consultation website by individual Canadians—and I stress that. This was perhaps one of the first times we've used technology so effectively to consult Canadians at this level. Secondly, more than 1,200 Canadians took part in 38 public meetings and 7 regional workshops in 19 different cities. And thirdly, there were direct discussions with national and regional aboriginal groups.

But let me again mention—and I'm really quite proud of this fact—that the website was used as the opportunity for all Canadians, in particular rural Canadians, to take part in this process even if they were not in urban centres and were unable to take part in the actual face-to-face meetings.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency also worked with provinces and stakeholders—the multi-stakeholder Regulatory Advisory Committee—to develop proposals to improve the federal environmental assessment process. Our consultations point the way to practical solutions for problems that have been identified, and those consultations did not suggest that a major rewrite of the act is needed.

Areas that can be improved are greater predictability, consistency, timeliness of the process, and better coordination. We will also be looking into the quality of assessments and compliance as well as improving the opportunity for public participation in the assessment process.

I want to complete the five-year review in a timely fashion—I hate to quote my colleague the Minister of Justice here—and will be coming forward with a report to Parliament and legislation in the fall, and I trust that legislation will be passed in very good time early next year.

• 1610

[Translation]

Lastly, I would like to debate another important responsibility within my portfolio: our national weather service. Much of Environment Canada's budget goes to the Canadian Meteorological Service. This is one of the areas in which government is often on the front lines, gathering data in the field and providing services to the whole population, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

[English]

Of course we will continue to provide this vital service to the tens of millions of Canadians who use and rely upon it every day. But I want to see changes, and I want to see our weather service become an even more visible and valuable resource.

Canadians will expect us to keep pace with the rising standards for weather warnings and services that they see south of the border. We are therefore installing Doppler radar systems across Canada, but our science is bound to reveal more that can be done to provide Canadians with the most accurate weather warnings possible. Modern technologies for weather services offer exciting possibilities for helping our transportation, agriculture, and other sectors to remain competitive with other countries. We all have a stake in making sure Canada finds the scientific resources needed to better understand trends in Canadian climate.

With the right vision, our weather services have the potential to be a significant strategic resource for Canada. The work of the weather service will also be vital to such environmental priorities as clean air or responding to the threat of climate change.

In conclusion, I would like to say that each of these items helps us build the new architecture for environmental management. We in Environment Canada will continue to use new tools and a progressive approach to finally breaking through many of the barriers that have limited our progress on the environment. This committee will play an important and indeed vital part in achieving those goals.

Thank you for your time and your patience and courtesy. I look forward to hearing your questions, and I will attempt to answer them, when I can, with the assistance of members of the department who are here with me.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Anderson. We appreciate your statement, and I'm sure every member will want to participate, comment, and ask questions.

With that in mind, I will start the rounds. If members keep their questions to five minutes each, we might then be able to have two rounds this afternoon.

We'll start with Mr. Hilstrom, followed by Madame Girard-Bujold, Mr. Gruending, and Mr. Herron, and by Mr. Reed and Madam Catterall on the government side.

Mr. Hilstrom.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the facts and figures on which you're basing your projections and plans, have you taken into account the fact that, it's my understanding, by 2050 there will be some nine billion people in the world as opposed to the numbers we have now? Is that part of the criteria you're factoring into your planning for these programs?

Mr. David Anderson: The point you've raised is a particularly good one. I appreciate the fact that you've taken the time horizon beyond the 2010 that I talked about. As we enter the new century and millennium, it is particularly important to look forward from distance, and I appreciate that you have done that.

Yes, we are looking at that, in particular with issues such as global climate change and desertification. Even the Meteorological Service of Canada and the tremendous opportunity it provides, not just ourselves but other nations as well, will assist.

Naturally, there's a limit on what we can do in terms of the global problems, ecological problems, facing us. But we do work closely with other countries, frustrating though it can be at United Nations conferences or other conferences, to try to achieve some management of the long-term major issue that you've raised.

• 1615

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you.

In dealing with provincial-federal relations, I called about Lake Winnipeg. We had hog barns going in on a creek that has fish spawning in it. I was told by the environment department that in fact that had nothing to do with the federal government, that it was a provincial environmental issue. This is into Lake Winnipeg. Is that a correct fact from your side? Is there an agreement between the province and the federal government as to who does environmental issues like that?

Mr. David Anderson: Yes, Mr. Hilstrom, that is correct. The management of the agricultural side at that level and the management of the environment with respect to waters and land within the province are essentially provincial. That is why we will have some interesting discussions with respect to the endangered species legislation, the species at risk legislation. Fundamentally, the direct management is provincial. We try to make sure we do not overlap and get in one another's way and create duplicate systems.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Well, I'm a cattle rancher and a farmer. I think you'll find that all of us are intent upon having a good, clean environment. My business depends on clean water and safe water. Without it, we're doomed.

In the bigger picture of things, in regard to your Kyoto comments, we are going to reduce our emissions by 6% and places like Australia get to increase theirs. There's going to be an economic impact in regard to that. I've considered the fact that in Canada, if an industry finds that it's better to locate over to Australia in order to lower its emissions, that will have an economic impact. If it moves to China or third world countries that don't have the emission controls we have, in fact we'll end up with more pollution globally than if we had kept our industries constantly improving their ability to reduce emissions.

What's the economic impact on Canada in the future of your measures that are going to be put in place to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution?

Mr. David Anderson: Mr. Hilstrom, may I first say that I appreciate your background as a rancher. I am particularly proud of the fact that the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Alberta and British Columbia cattlemen's associations—I'm sorry; I don't know about every one of them across the country—have been very supportive of the Species at Risk Act. They are the people who really do want to make sure we have success. They live among these animals, which many of us see rarely during the year. It is critical to have their support, and I appreciate it very much.

Similarly, I appreciate your remark with respect to water quality and general environmental degradation by feedlot practices or other practices. We'll go into that perhaps some other time.

With respect to Kyoto, it is certainly true that a good number of the world's developing economies, China and India being two clear, important ones, are not part of the so-called tier one countries, which are committed to reductions. Nevertheless, both countries have shown considerable interest in making reductions, and many other developing countries have done the same thing. They are not committed in the same way as the tier one countries are, the developed countries, but they are nevertheless taking steps.

This brings up the issue of the United States. The one way we're going to succeed in encouraging the developing countries to take part is of course through the power of markets. If they believe their markets might be affected, they are much more likely to cooperate internationally. Therefore the American market, which is so important to developing economies, will be a critical factor. The American approach to the Kyoto accords will be critical not only for its own sake, because after all, 25% of all emissions are probably from American sources, but also for the sake of bringing on the other third of the world in terms of emissions, which is the developing world.

I believe there is some unevenness in the targets chosen, but overall it was essentially a sign-on process. We signed on to minus six because the Prime Minister and the government felt that was a realistic goal for us to achieve. We did that expecting to have certain opportunities in forestry and in agriculture to use what are called carbon sinks. Also, we expected to have certain opportunities to use nuclear technology, the CANDU reactor, in terms of reducing carbon emissions. We still haven't figured out all the details.

There's an international forum in the Hague this November, which Canada will be attending. We're not quite sure what is going to be considered acceptable on the international scale and what is not. We also believe there should be international emissions trading and various other measures internationally to help.

• 1620

It's true that it's not the perfect system. It's true that we do not have absolute precision, but recognizing the difficulties of Kyoto, we believe we're on the right track and the rest of the world is in fact on the right track. Through this process, we can make some major changes.

We will not be in a position of being uncompetitive. I want to stress that. Energy efficiency normally leads to cost improvements for the companies involved. Dow Chemical is a good example, but it's right across the board. I'm driving a car outside, which you've probably seen. Well, I'm not driving it personally. It gets 88 miles to the gallon. It's a Honda. I'll be driving a Toyota and I'll be driving a Ford and I'll be driving a Chev...and everybody else who's kind enough to loan me a car that has this phenomenal mileage. The changes through technology will provide market opportunity.

People may complain about high gasoline prices in Canada. They're the second lowest in the world, but people complain about them being high. Well, they're likely to choose more efficient vehicles as a result. I think we have some opportunity here to improve quality of life and economic opportunity for Canadians. This is not a negative, it's not a win-lose. It is in fact in many instances a win-win. The 26% below what would otherwise be the case, which I mentioned in my speech, is a very achievable target.

European countries—

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hilstrom.

Minister, we enjoyed very much your comprehensive and wide-ranging answers. We would be even happier if you could make them slightly more succinct so as to give everybody a chance to come at you.

It is my pleasure and duty on behalf of my colleagues to welcome the arrival in this room of a delegation of elected members to the Chinese National People's Congress. I'm told they are here in Canada for the purpose of studying the role of legislatures and the role of public participation.

You're very welcome, you and your assistants.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

The Chair: In case you may be wondering what is happening in this room right now, we are examining the budget for the Department of the Environment, which is represented by the minister and his officials. Around the table, for each of the four opposition parties in the House of Commons, we have one member sitting on the left side of the chair and on this side are the members of the government party. This is a procedure that takes place every year at budget time.

Again, you're welcome to this committee.

[Translation]

Madam Girard-Bujold, please. You have five minutes.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Good day Mr. Minister. After hearing the Speech from the Throne early in the session, I was expecting much more from the Government of Canada. Expectations were that there would a real budget for the environment. However, the very opposite has proved to be the case. This was a non-environmental budget. I find that you make very nice speeches, but I do not think that you are receiving a level of support from your government that is appropriate to what you want to do for the environment.

Mr. Minister, I am truly disappointed because I was expecting the Canadian government to invest an enormous amount of money this year to combat greenhouse gases, in order to respond to the expectations generated by its commitments in Kyoto. At the current rate of progress, greenhouse gas emissions will be 35% higher than the level we promised to achieve for the year 2010.

Mr. Minister, you also intervened in the House after the Throne Speech, saying that something had to be done for contaminated sites. Absolutely nothing has been done.

You said just now, Mr. Minister, that a great deal of money had to be appropriated to address the impact of climate change. The 2000-2001 Budget contains absolutely nothing. You also said that it was necessary to spend money on renewable energy. Absolutely nothing is included in the 2000-2001 Budget.

Mr. Minister, I liked your speech, but you will have to give real answers to the questions that people are currently asking.

I will have other questions to ask you later. Thank you.

• 1625

Mr. David Anderson: Thank you Madam Girard-Bujold. First of all, you are right to say that the budget did not include anything clear about polluted sites. However, in its total budget, the government is spending approximately $96 million per year on polluted sites. We also increased the funds being spent at one particular site, the Sydney tar ponds, and we also have specific responsibilities with respect to the Giant mines near Yellowknife.

Everywhere, in the various government departments, there are efforts to deal with polluted sites. You are right to say that there have not been budget increases, but don't forget that almost $100 million is being spent every year on polluted sites.

I did not include polluted sites in the list of four things I spoke about today. However, I hope that you will see an increase in government activities in this area before the end of the year.

Thank you for your efforts to pressure the government into increasing the Department of the Environment's budget. Your comments to the effect that my department's budget should be increased are good to hear. However, the budget for the year 2000 was increased by $700 million, and this was the first increase since I don't know when. There had been several small increases, but this is the largest, the most visible and the most striking over the past seven years.

For example, we have committed funds to several areas. A hundred million dollars has been earmarked for international funds. We have $20 million assigned to POPs, persistent organic pollutants. We have allocated funds to technology. We have set up an energy efficiency office. We have increased the allocations to endangered species. In all, over eight years, this represents $180 million.

Madam Girard-Bujold, there have been many increases. I do not want to list them all, but in all, the increase stands at $700 million over four years. I believe that $60 million is to be divided over six years, but most of the other amounts are over a four-year period.

In addition, I am expecting a budget increase for next year , particularly with your help in the House.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You are very kind, Mr. Minister, and I am happy to be able to help you. I never thought I had so much power. It strikes me as very little compared to you and your powers.

And yet, Mr. Chairman, in spite of what the Minister has just said, in 1999-2000, the department had placed $1.33 billion in that column whereas now, for the year 2000-2001, there is $700 million. I therefore tend to think that the budget has been cut by half. Unless I don't know how to read, that is exactly what is shown in your budget.

Secondly, you spoke earlier about the urgency of cleaning up our water. You spoke of the Canada/Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality. You said that you would be injecting an additional $8 million. I would like to know what the total budget for this program is.

I would also like to know what you are doing for the St. Lawrence River, consistent of course with provincial jurisdiction. Mr. Minister, there is an enormous amount of sedimentation and there are extremely dangerous sites in the St. Lawrence. Action is necessary. What are you doing for this? I did not see anything in your budget about the St. Lawrence, or about any agreement with the province. Mr. Minister, I thank you for considering that I have some influence, but I am very disappointed with yours.

Mr. David Anderson: Madam Girard-Bujold, for the Great Lakes, yes, there is $8 million, which is not much, but this is only at the regional level. We spent much more than that because all of the programs can be used for the Great Lakes. The amount you spoke of is only at the regional level.

• 1630

We have other regional plans, for example, for the St. Lawrence River. We did not earmark any money specifically for this, or for the Georgia basin, or for the Okanagan Valley or the North. All we did was earmark money for the Great Lakes. There are programs for all the regions, and not only the Great Lakes Region. There are all the other pan-Canadian programs.

For the St. Lawrence, there has been a remarkable improvement in water quality in recent years. The amount of water that is now pollution free has increased dramatically. I recall that only a short time ago, less than 10% of drainage water from towns along the St. Lawrence was being treated. Now, I think we have reached at least 90%. I will now turn to the experts who are with me. There has been a truly remarkable improvement in water quality as a result of treatment.

This does not mean that we have reached a peak and that there are no more problems, but there has been a major improvement in quality. There will be further improvements in water quality. Let us take mercury, for example. Mercury is one of the elements that causes acid rain. Furthermore, our negotiations with the Americans to improve air quality may have as much of an impact on water quality as on air quality.

So I assure you that the St. Lawrence has not been forgotten. I'm sure that as long as you are in the House, that will never happen.

The Chair: Thank you Madam Girard-Bujold.

Mr. Gruending, please.

[English]

Mr. Dennis Gruending (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming to visit with us.

I have in front of me a media story that refers to a draft document from the Office of the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. It refers to a lack of government action regarding the ability to deal with hazardous waste imports. If I may just quote briefly from it, this report says:

    We are not satisfied with the progress that federal departments have made in addressing...the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. Canada is still not in a position to know the extent to which it is fulfilling its international obligations to prevent illegal traffic of hazardous waste at the border and does not have an action plan to address significant gaps.

There's also some reference to the fact that organized crime is involved in the improper storage or disposal of hazardous waste. My question is, does this criticism jive with what you know and what you are being told by your own officials?

Mr. David Anderson: Thank you.

First, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a document that is in turn based on a leaked document, a second document. We're getting a bit far from the original, whatever it may be.

But I will say with regard to the substance of the comments you've made that we do believe it's important to enforce environmental laws. One of the things I did not mention to my critic from the Bloc is that in the budget we increased enforcement moneys by some $40 million, which I believe is approximately 50% of enforcement ability. Where that enforcement money will go is not entirely determined. But in the last budget we recognized a general problem of the need to have increased enforcement.

At the same time, as you know, CEPA, the new Canadian law, came into effect on April 1, and that leads to new requirements and responsibilities.

There is no question that there are transfers of waste material across the border. If we discover later that it's polluted, we have the problem of being unable to send it back to the United States, which is where it normally comes from, because of their law that says it cannot be reimported regardless of source.

So we have a problem in that area, but it is not a problem that I would describe as acute or in any way out of control. We know that we import approximately 400,000 tonnes of waste product and export some 270,000 tonnes of waste product. Most of what we bring into Canada is in fact recycled in Canada. So there are interesting questions that arise as to how you should organize recycling and how you should organize destruction facilities.

• 1635

Mr. Dennis Gruending: May I follow up, since my time is rather short. There was reference in a study published some years back to the bothersome connection between these hazardous waste shipments and organized crime. Is that something you're aware of? That's not in this latest document. It's in a previous one that has already been published.

Mr. David Anderson: I would have to turn over to my officials any references to organized crime. I'm not aware that this is a major problem. For instance, in comparison with the smuggling of drugs and of people, we're simply not in the same situation at all.

I don't know. Is there any major concern, Deputy?

Mr. Alan Nymark (Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment): If I may, Mr. Chairman, this issue has arisen, and we have entered into discussions with the RCMP. We are looking at studying it. But in terms of the magnitude of the problem, I think the minister has addressed that issue.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

Related to hazardous waste, Mr. Minister, you will recall the ship that was coming our way in late March and early April. During the discussions around that, there was an allegation that in the past Canada may have accepted waste PCBs from the American military without anyone knowing about it, at least the public. I did ask a question in the House one day when you weren't there, which was whether the government could tell us if we ever have accepted shipments of waste PCBs into Canada from the American military.

Mr. David Anderson: Again, I think the question was no doubt superbly answered by my parliamentary secretary, Paddy Torsney, who's sitting here.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: A bold attempt was made.

Mr. David Anderson: I should turn it over to her.

Fundamentally, the source of the polluted material is not particularly relevant. Whether it's an American hospital, an American military base, an American utility, or whatever, that is not the critical factor. The critical factor is surely the waste itself. I don't know whether we have particular evidence. I don't think we do.

To go back to the shipment that came to Vancouver, the company in Ontario, according to its original statements, thought it had permission to import it into Ontario for destruction and to deal with it. About two months beforehand, the Ontario government had issued a letter to it saying that they no longer had the right to take contaminated waste of this type from outside the country. There was no place for it to go, so clearly we didn't accept it. It really didn't affect Canada very much. I must say that I found it unbelievable at the time that the United States military, which was responsible for this waste, somehow had to take it back to Japan. It couldn't be brought into the United States.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: I agree with you on that.

On the question of whether we have accepted such waste from the American military before without it being public knowledge, do you happen to know?

Mr. David Anderson: No, I don't, nor do I know whether Canadian military waste has gone to the United States or whether British military waste or German military waste has come to Canada. I just don't know. We don't have the source of all the waste product with that precision.

What we try to do is get information about the waste so that we know there are hypodermic needles from a hospital in the waste, if that is the case, or that it does contain PCBs, if that is the case and concern. But the source of it has never really been a matter of great concern to us. What has been of concern is the quality and type of waste, so that we have the best information for handling it.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Do I have time for another question, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: Unfortunately not, but on a second round, hopefully.

Next is Mr. Herron, followed by Mr. Reed and Madam Catterall.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): I'd like to try to get two issues in in this round, if I can.

First, you stated that one of your priorities is indeed the water quality in the country. Essentially 100% of the water that is available to the residents of Prince Edward Island is in fact groundwater. The residents believe that Environment Canada, in particular the senior officials in the Department of Environment P.E.I., has abandoned them on the ground on most issues. Currently there are only two Environment Canada employees in P.E.I. There are over 100 on the ground at the provincial level who are doing most of the bulk work from investigations and whatever normally should be done out of Halifax. The Halifax senior officials are telling me this isn't working.

• 1640

If Environment Canada wants to make one present in P.E.I. on one issue, it could address the issue with respect to fish kills they had through agricultural runoff. The Province of P.E.I. has allocated $3 million over three years to improve farming practices, such as buffer zones or fencing for livestock or better storage for hydrocarbons and pesticides. So I know this is a principal issue about which you will be talking to the minister, Kevin McAdam, when you're at the CCME in three weeks' time.

What commitment can Environment Canada make to P.E.I. on the most critical issue in P.E.I. from an environmental perspective, to which none other compares? The entire water quality is groundwater. Three million dollars helps to maintain the high quality of water in P.E.I., so can you enlighten me as to whether Environment Canada will make this a fundamental priority?

Mr. David Anderson: Mr. Herron, I will be discussing this, as you mentioned, with the provincial minister in probably three weeks' time. There's no question that groundwater is a critical factor, but as I said in response to an earlier question from Mr. Hilstrom where we were talking about responsibility of the province and the federal government, we do have different responsibilities. If the Province of Prince Edward Island believes we are not fulfilling our constitutional responsibilities and they have had to take our place, I will be most interested in it.

I would remind you that federal activities on Prince Edward Island are probably higher than in any other province in the country in terms of relationship to either population or to taxation. We have very, very substantial activity there, and if in fact there's a need to increase it, I'll be happy to discuss it with you and indeed Mr. McAdam.

I don't think, however, simply a direct comparison between the number of people who work within the provincial government and the number of federal employees is necessarily a valid comparison. In some other areas we do things in Prince Edward Island that provinces themselves take on—shellfish, for example.

Mr. John Herron: I have a second question, Mr. Chair.

I was very much confused earlier on with your remarks with respect to Kyoto. I was the critic through that particular debate, and it was made very clear by the government that with respect to international affairs it was Environment Canada, but with respect to domestic implementation it was Natural Resources. Yet you chose to make the bulk of your comments, almost exclusively from your text, on domestic issues. You didn't talk about foreign issues until Mr. Hilstrom actually brought them forward.

I'd like make a comment, as we head toward the Hague, that Canada accepted the Kyoto target not because it was something to sign on to, but because we clearly did not do our homework in an international context, as the Aussies clearly did.

I'd like to point out a clearer example with respect to Sweden. Sweden is allegedly going down 7% because they're under the European bubble, yet they're actually going up 7% in fact, because their target is being blended within the bubble. Sweden is a cold-weather-climate country like ours, energy intensive, natural-resource-based like ours; it has a small population base relative to a large land mass like ours; it is going out of nuclear power, which puts some pressures on them—and we may have some pressures in that way in Ontario. So I would like to hear about what kind of tradable permit regime we're going to be putting our energies into with respect to doing this on a North American basis, also given the fact that Canada only produces 2% of greenhouse gases.

The Chair: All that, possibly, within two minutes.

Mr. David Anderson: With respect to international affairs, obviously if Canada is to achieve its targets I think we should emphasize what we can do domestically, but I did indicate that international trading would be a major part of it. I don't know if it would be 50%. I personally think the trading aspect would be substantially below 50%. Nevertheless, with respect to that, we do not yet have the systems in place, as I mentioned. It's the Hague this fall, and if you would like to come to the Hague this fall, as some other members are, I'd be most happy to have you.

It is important to recognize that Kyoto was inevitably a certain amount of ballpark figures, in that we're talking about the future. There is debate as to the direct and immediate impact of particular aspects of global warming. We don't have total precision in science. We don't have every scientist singing from the same hymn book and the same line at the same time. It was an international agreement to try to move the world ahead.

• 1645

If we had spent our entire time, Mr. Herron, arguing that somehow one or another had a slight advantage over us, that Australia was here, Sweden was there, we'd never have got anywhere at all. There comes a time when you have to say there is a common world problem. And environment is where we have to say we have to do our share.

As I mentioned to Mr. Hilstrom, we do expect to do this without damage to our economy. We do expect it to buy opportunity for our economy. But I think we should disabuse ourselves—I hope you don't take this as a criticism—of the idea that whatever we do for Kyoto is somehow bad for Canada. That's just wrong.

I think we have to recognize that we have responsibilities to the world. We have responsibilities to our children. And we will not succeed in handling those effectively if we spend all our time on minute analyses of what might happen in 2012.

I should also add that Kyoto is not the end of the road. Kyoto was simply an agreement two years ago. It may be, as we discover what is happening on global warming, that people start saying Kyoto was just a marker on the road, that we have to go much further in one direction or another. The issue of global warming is much bigger than maybe Kyoto itself.

I would suggest that, yes, Sweden within that European bubble may have some opportunities, but we agreed there would be a bubble. And I certainly deny that we did not do our homework. The homework was done, but the problem is you cannot have 100% precision in knowing everything everywhere around the world with respect to the issue of emissions.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Herron.

Mr. Minister, we welcome your selected invitation to a member of this committee to join you in the Hague next November, and we would certainly be very happy if you also included some government members in that delegation.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Especially members of this committee.

The Chair: This committee, definitely.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: Absolutely.

The Chair: That's what was intended.

Mr. David Anderson: I assume most of the members of the opposition will have seen the light by then and be government members, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: There won't be an election before then, will there?

The Chair: We have Mr. Reed, followed by Madam Catterall, Mr. Lowther, Madam Kraft Sloan, and the chair.

Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Minister, you've pointed out very succinctly your vision about where you want to go. In the brief time I have, I would like to zero in on a little bit of the how-to.

There is a feeling that in order to address Kyoto positively it could have a negative effect on the economy. Such is not the case. I think the statement you made about encouraging entrepreneurship is a very positive one. There are things that can be done immediately that can go a long way to addressing the Kyoto commitment, except for a few roadblocks that have to be removed.

You talked about a greener tax structure, and that's a very positive thing in itself, but some of these moves require interface between government and business and entrepreneurship. The interface is where the attempts at entrepreneurship bog down at the present time.

I also have to say that it requires complete cooperation among the three levels of government. What happens now with entrepreneurs in one particular province that I'm very familiar with is that they run into a bureaucracy that's carrying with it the millstones of the 1960s, and their prejudices are not allowing green development to take place. It's as simple as that. As long as we have, for instance, a commenting body, when environmental assessment is done, that is the same body as the approving body, we will have a direct conflict of interest and their prejudice prevails.

• 1650

So if I make no more comment today, that's a message that we have to get through somehow. If we do, we can unleash entrepreneurial forces that can effect the reduction of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. If we don't, there won't be a nickel invested in those pursuits.

Mr. David Anderson: Mr. Reed, I take this as a representation, and a very eloquent one. You're absolutely correct on every front. I have nothing to argue with you.

There are these institutional roadblocks. There is not adequate cooperation between levels of government yet, and we do have prejudices within bureaucratic structures that prevent appropriate green development and experimentation. Those are all issues that we are going to have to work hard on.

With respect to taxation, we have the federal-provincial committee on taxation, which is meeting to consider improvements in the green taxation that we have. That committee has been oriented essentially fiscally. It's tax people who have done most of the discussion in the past. It's going to be interesting to see how well they handle this issue.

With respect to cooperation, I have to say I'm sometimes disappointed by the slowness of the federal-provincial process, and I'm actually encouraged by the municipalities that come to me and propose alliances.

So overall we have some problems. But that having been said, there are some positive signs.

The budget had $125 million directly for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It's going to be green money. It's federal money, and my department will not have control of one dollar of it. It's a great approach whereby we partner with municipalities. We have opportunities now to buy green power, essentially wind power but also some other sources, and we have of course the technology funds.

So there are some indications in the budget, Mr. Reed, that your message—which you've put a number of times, and this is not the first time I've heard it—is getting across to people in Finance and throughout the government. I thank you, as I have thanked others here, for the work you've done. It is tremendously important.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Madame Catterall, s'il vous plâit.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I have a couple of questions, Minister. Thank you very much. I wish we had a lot longer. This is an important department.

First is an editorial comment. I am sick and tired of reading about business lines. Government is not in business. Government looks after people's well-being, security, prosperity, and health, and I hope that you or other ministers will take this by the horn and stop the neo-terminology in our reports.

That's an editorial comment, and I'm making it at every committee I get the chance to make it.

I wanted to ask you about the weather environmental predictions. I'm particularly concerned about the second part, where we talk about adaptation to day-to-day and longer-term changes in the atmospheric hydrological and ice conditions.

As a new member of Parliament, one of the best experiences I have ever had in the 34th Parliament was, with our current chair, sitting on the environment committee and doing an excellent series of reports on atmospheric issues at that time. Those reports, I think, stand the test of time extremely well. One of the issues we addressed—and it's still a big issue today—was whether we try to deal with the problems or whether we adapt to the problems.

I'm wondering what the use of the word “adaptation” means, because I hope our prime thrust is in dealing with and solving the problems, not responding to the horrendous situations that not dealing with them creates.

Can you explain to me why we are talking about adapting?

Mr. David Anderson: Yes. First, thank you for the comment that this is a very important department. I tend to believe it is the most important department, but that's my own prejudice.

The editorial comment I take as mea culpa. We will try to improve that, Ms. Catterall.

With respect to the question of adaptation, there are some issues with respect to atmosphere that are simply beyond human control, and climate change is one of the ones where some people say, look, spend all your effort on adaptation, because there's nothing we can do to modify it. There's going to be a mix, I think, because we're not quite sure where the correct balance may be.

• 1655

A report came out recently—not in my department, but for national parks—on the impact of climate change on national parks, and once again there's the issue of adaptation. What do you do if you're trying to preserve a national park system in Canada in the face of something that is making dramatic changes to geoclimatic conditions in various parts of the country?

I think where possible we should be attempting to make sure we reverse or at least arrest or, when that's not possible, reduce the speed of trends, but there are some cases where you have to say adaptation is really the only solution.

For example, with respect to climate change in the north, with respect to tundra, what do we do when the permafrost is unfrozen to much greater depths? What do we do when it's no longer possible to have the winter roads in northern Canada that we're used to for moving equipment, and it's not possible to build other roads because of the quagmire nature of some of the permafrost that's now getting...? These are areas where adaptation is the only solution.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I would appreciate it if your officials could direct me to where I can get more information on how we're spending the $64 million.

That brings me, quite logically, to my next question, about the science capacity of the department.

The Auditor General in a recent report raised serious concerns about the reduction in science capacity throughout the federal government. Obviously much of what your department does is research science based. I wonder if you could comment on how your department is responding to the Auditor General's report and the need for better science in this area. Do you have the science capacity? Have you taken measures to attract new scientific talent to your department?

Mr. David Anderson: Ms. Catterall, on the first point, we will provide you with the letter that you suggested would be helpful to you.

On science capacity, we have not adequately addressed the issue of demographics of our scientific establishment. It is essentially older and narrower than it should be. There has not been the recruitment of young scientists over the last few years to keep things where they should be to have the most efficient system. In addition, the overall total capacity is not adequate, in my view, but it's a great deal better than it was.

We are increasing our contact with universities. I will turn this over to the deputy to give you details on numbers. We are, in addition, having certain specific contact with university areas. Yesterday, for example, I met with some deans of science about the possibility of working out relationships directly with the department for certain very specialized areas we recruit for, and where essentially, to recruit, you have to tell people early on in their careers that they have to follow that path and that a job is likely to be there at the end of it.

Science, I think, will always be a problem. We've dealt as a government with university science to a degree. There are still concerns with respect to research money. But one area that has not been fully dealt with is the capacity of the government, and there are seven government departments involved.

I know in Fisheries and Oceans I faced this problem. We did make some changes there. We've made some changes in Environment Canada, which the deputy will outline, but in terms of overall impression, I don't think we're where we need to be, and I hope that can be improved over the next four years.

Deputy.

Mr. Alan Nymark: Science is the heart of the department and it's where the majority of the expenditures go. We play a leadership role across departments as well by co-chairing the science ADMs group that looks at government-wide problems.

It's our belief that every opportunity we have to enhance our science capacity should be pursued, and we are directing funds in that regard.

We will be facing a significant problem of retirement. We already face a problem of attracting new scientists, for example, in the meteorological area. There aren't the number of graduates being produced out there in our universities right now, so we are hiring mathematicians and physicists and training them internally to do these jobs, and encouraging Canadian universities to increase their output of meteorologists.

• 1700

In some of the newer areas, such as biotechnology, it is a very tough marketplace trying to attract new scientists in these areas, because of the kinds of incentives they can get. So we have a pretty widespread program to address this issue.

We are also looking at the network side of this. Most of the science in this area will remain outside the walls of Environment Canada, so it will be even more critical in the future that we have networks to the university communities, and access to the activities that are going on in such things as the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

We are working very hard to get an environmental health institute, as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We are renewing our efforts with NSERC to try to get a more strategic approach to the kinds of allocations of funds that are taking place there.

We really fundamentally believe this is the heart of the department, and we will strengthen it when we can.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Nymark.

We now have Mr. Lowther. Welcome to the committee. You have five minutes.

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.

Mr. Minister, this may be a little redundant. You may have already answered this question by implication in other answers you've given, but I want to get it as clear as I can. On the targets that were set for Kyoto of 6% below 1990 levels by 2008 or 2012, are you still adamant that these targets are achievable?

Mr. David Anderson: Yes, I believe they are quite achievable. Obviously they will take changes, but these are entirely achievable goals.

Mr. Eric Lowther: Thank you.

On my other question, Mr. Minister, I've read that sometimes you've said there will be no greenhouse tax, and then later you've said maybe there will be a greenhouse tax. It has kind of oscillated back and forth in the media—not from you per se, admittedly. But I would like to get some kind of clarification. Do you have a position you've held throughout this—or current—that you're firm on, with regard to greenhouse taxes or new taxes as an approach to address the issue?

Mr. David Anderson: Thank you for signalling that I was not the one who had given various answers. Let me simply say the position of government is clear. It has been repeated time after time that we will not try to achieve our Kyoto targets by way of well-head carbon taxes.

Mr. Eric Lowther: Well-head carbon taxes—that's pretty restrictive. Are there other kinds of taxes under consideration, perhaps fuel taxes at the pump? Some have argued to me that purchasing credits with money paid to the federal government is maybe different terminology, but it effectively works out to be a tax, in a sense. Basically it's money spent by a corporate entity to address the issue, with money flowing to Ottawa. Are those on the table under the umbrella of new taxation regimes?

Mr. David Anderson: As I indicated in my presentation, I believe we have to look at the tax system from the point of view of greening the tax system to achieve environmental objectives. But this does not mean a clear negative of transfer to the federal government treasury, as you've indicated. In every tax change, it's 50-50 one way. There are certain incentives provided by the tax system, as well as negatives of higher cost. Sometimes it's a question of taking taxes off.

I mentioned to Mr. Reed the need to have flexibility. In many instances it's removing taxes rather than putting them on. I think that has to be considered as well. That is why industry is really quite comfortable with the approach of having the tax system reflect environmental value. As to whether this could be said at this time to never incorporate a single dollar going into a treasury of the federal government or a provincial government, I just could not give that type of guarantee.

Mr. Eric Lowther: Could you rule out a fuel tax at the pumps?

Mr. David Anderson: We have about 24¢ to 34¢ of fuel tax at the pumps right now. I'm not saying it's going to be taken off. It's there now. There's been no consideration about increasing it or decreasing it with respect to the environment. I shouldn't say none—I wouldn't mind if we reduced that tax for low-sulphur gasoline. That's an incentive, so I guess I've thought about it, to the degree of providing an incentive for low-sulphur gasoline. But clearly that's not yet reflected at the pumps in the price of low-sulphur gasoline, so I haven't been very successful in that discussion.

• 1705

Mr. Eric Lowther: I'm pleased to hear—and I think I am hearing—that your approach is more toward incentives rather than penalties—tax relief for those who comply or move in the right direction, rather than new penalties for existing players. Is that accurate?

Mr. David Anderson: That would be so. That's certainly my preference, and I appreciate the way you phrased it. I think it's the best way to go. There is opportunity here for a win-win situation. I occasionally get a little frustrated by the negativism of those who say Kyoto is nothing but a loss, loss, loss. It's opportunity as well. Nevertheless, that having been said, there may be some practices where, in the process of working out differentials and proving things, there are some increases.

For example, in the city of Vancouver we're presently contemplating a $75 tax per vehicle, per year, to pay for urban transit. From the point of view of the lifestyle of people in Vancouver, that's a tremendous advantage—really a positive approach. But if you're used to driving to your work in Vancouver every day, you will probably think that's a negative. It's an extra $75 a year that you wouldn't have to pay otherwise.

Again, I can't give a categorical answer that there will never be an increase in municipal, federal, or provincial taxation to achieve an environmental goal. I certainly agree with you that where we have the opportunity for incentive, that's the most attractive way to proceed.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madam Kraft Sloan, please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Mr. Minister, I have two sets of questions for you, so I'll try to get them in really quickly.

On page 6 of your brief, you said you have been waiting for Ontario to sign the Canada/Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality, and unfortunately Ontario isn't willing to sign on right now. I'm wondering what the impact is for the status of the Great Lakes clean-up program as a result of this delay, and if you can tell us why you think Ontario won't sign on.

Mr. David Anderson: The impact immediately is not great. It expired at the end of March, and we are working with Ontario wherever we can. Certainly we are trying to pretend we still have an agreement. We're doing everything we can to continue with programs to cooperate with Ontario agencies. That having been said, in the long term it will clearly have an impact that will not be positive.

It's best to work under agreements, so people understand what is being done, as was indicated by Mr. Herron. We need to have discussions with Prince Edward Island as to which level of government should do what. That is true for Ontario as well.

The last part of your question is why. Ontario is occasionally a puzzling province to somebody who lives in the simplicity of British Columbia. I don't understand the Government of Ontario. I don't understand the ads they put in the paper. I don't understand the statements ministers sometimes make. Maybe you could help me, Ms. Kraft Sloan. I don't understand Ontario. I would have thought they would regard this as a major opportunity for cooperative work with the federal government, but they don't appear to.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Quite frankly, Mr. Minister, I'm also having a great deal of trouble understanding the Premier of Ontario on this particular issue. We know how strongly Ontarians care about clean water, how important clean water is, and how important the Great Lakes Basin is to both our economy and our health. It's absolutely appalling that they're not interested.

The second question I have pertains to a great interest of mine around the whole issue of child environmental health. It's my understanding there's an initiative between Environment Canada and Health Canada, where they are setting up a working group to take a look at this particular issue and maybe try to do some coordination. I would like to know who is the most senior person in your department responsible for this child environmental health, as well as who from Environment Canada is sitting on the interdepartmental committee. I would also like to know the objectives and the status of the initiative at this particular time.

• 1710

Mr. David Anderson: On the question of environmental health and our cooperation—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Oh, I'm sorry. It's child environmental health.

Mr. David Anderson: Yes, right, child environmental health. Deputy Minister Nymark came to Environment Canada from Health Canada. He's probably in the best position. You asked for the senior person. Well, he's the deputy, so he's probably the person to address that question.

On your first assessment with respect to Ontario, that cartoon in the Globe and Mail yesterday, I think it was, summed it up. There were some large pipes putting effluent into the water. There were a couple of people in a small boat, and one of them was saying to the other, “Well, at least we have no squeegee kids here.”

Voices: Oh, oh!

Mr. David Anderson: I don't quite understand Ontario newspapers.

I don't understand Ontario politics. I don't understand why Ontario is not more interested in cooperative action in this regard. We have an opportunity to show Ontarians and Canadians we can cooperate in achieving goals that I believe, from the little I know of Ontarians, are very close to their hearts.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Especially, Mr. Minister, when you consider that Ontario is the third-worst polluter under the CEC studies. This is of a great deal of concern to us, especially when we know that a lot of airborne pollutants are the cause of water-borne pollutants and problems with our water system.

If your deputy minister can address the question on child environmental health, I would really appreciate that.

Mr. David Anderson: Thank you.

Mr. Alan Nymark: First of all, let me note that we very much appreciated learning the results of the children's environmental health symposium on May 10 and 11. We held a science symposium on children's health two weeks ago. All departments were invited. We had representatives of stakeholder groups there as well. We had at least one representative of provincial government. We had a member of the U.S. EPA. We looked at the children's environmental health issue from four or five different perspectives to share what we know about this from a science perspective and to ask what we don't know. That collaboration is going to continue at the level of science.

Mr. Anderson has recently had discussions with his counterpart in the United States on what they are doing on a children's environmental health strategy, and we are attempting to learn the lessons of that particular project.

As well, Mr. Anderson attended the recent G-8 meeting of environment ministers in Osaka, Japan, and one of the three items on the agenda was children's environmental health. Indeed, I guess it may be telling tales outside school, but I must say there was more passionate conviction on that issue than on some of the other items that were discussed around the table.

At the level of policy, the department is working between our assistant deputy minister of policy, Norine Smith, and the assistant deputy minister of policy in Health Canada, Ian Shugart, on a children's environmental health strategy.

So a number of things are going on.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay. Good.

Mr. Alan Nymark: I opened the science symposium the other day, and I asked the scientists to address this issue as a matter of urgency and from an action point of view.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Good.

I just have one other quick question on the health of kids and how their health is affected by environmental contaminants. Dr. Barry Commoner produced a report for the CEC on dioxins and how they make their way into the Arctic, and I'm just wondering when that report will be released.

• 1715

Mr. David Anderson: I'm sorry, I do not know when that report will be released. I'll check on that. I'll be attending a meeting actually of the CEC ministers of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico within the next three or four weeks. I'll check on that.

Certainly the levels in the Arctic of dioxins, furans, and of course all persistent organic pollutants are dramatically higher than they are in southern Canada. That is why we're spending money internationally to encourage other countries to cease the practice of using DDT where possible, or to use substitutes where possible, and also to generally reduce its use.

Having said that, the World Health Organization tells us that if DDT were eliminated worldwide at the present time, without a substitute, an extra million and a half people might die annually as a result of malaria.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right.

Mr. David Anderson: I've just been passed a note that says Dr. Commoner's paper is under peer review at the present time.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay, so is it likely that it would be released before the CEC ministers have their meeting in June?

Mr. David Anderson: If it's under peer review, I guess we have to wait for the scientific people to carry out that work, but I'm happy to.... Well, it will probably be released one way or another, with the criticisms of the peers or with their congratulations. I don't know what it would be. But it will be released, I'm sure, in due course.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay, good. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Madam Kraft Sloan.

We have time for a rapid second round as soon as the chair has a chance to ask a few brief questions.

Mr. Minister, in your quite extensive statement this afternoon, you indicated there are four approaches to the climate change issue, as outlined in your brief. I was wondering whether you might be willing to add to that strategy—which consists of four parts—a fifth item, namely the need to remove tax incentives in our federal system that are offered to the oil industry for the extraction of tar sands oils, which we are told by the scientific community produces four times more carbon dioxide than the normal extraction of petroleum. That recommendation has been made repeatedly by this committee to the government since 1996.

Mr. David Anderson: We certainly are, Mr. Chairman, examining through the federal-provincial committee the whole issue of taxation generally. In essence, every subject is up for discussion that might be there.

We have to recognize, however, that the tar sands have the concern you correctly put forward, but at the same time we've had some very dramatic changes in the amount of energy needed for production of that synthetic crude and some dramatic improvements in the polluting effects. This is not to say they've reached the point where they're equivalent to conventional oil, and indeed they're certainly not equivalent to some other sources of energy, such as wind or others.

It is important, however, to recognize that the companies that are there are making major efforts to address the problem. I guess the real question for all of us is, will they be successful enough so that the additional environmental impact of synthetic crude production will be reduced to the point where it is no longer the matter of major concern it has been? The increased improvement in efficiency is approximately 1.5% a year, which is quite substantial.

In addition, some other new technologies are being experimented with in carbon extraction, so it is a little uncertain at the present time whether they will remain as you've described them.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

Can we expect ratification of the Kyoto agreement by Canada before the United States government ratifies it?

Mr. David Anderson: I find ratification to be—and I want to be very candid here—a bit of a red herring. We're going to achieve our Kyoto objectives whether we ratify or not. If we keep talking about ratification, we will have the issue come up, quite rightly, from Canadian industry and other sectors that say “Well, let's find out if the Americans ratify before we ratify.” If 2002 is the date chosen, which is the one the Europeans would like to have ratification by, and we wait until 2002 to see if the Americans ratify before we begin our programs, we're missing two full years of potential programs of the eight to twelve years we have between now and the year 2008 or 2012. I think that would be a major loss.

• 1720

So I do not emphasize ratification. I fully expect Canada to ratify, and I fully expect the Americans to achieve their goals. By the way, their goal is higher than ours. We have approximately minus 26%, and they have approximately minus 30% of what it would be under business as usual.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Minister. If I may—

Mr. David Anderson: But I'm not sure the American Congress is going to allow the administration to ratify and that the American Congress would agree to play its part.

The Chair: Thank you. In your statement you dealt also with the environmental assessment review. Do we as a committee understand correctly that a government bill will be sent to this committee by next spring?

Mr. David Anderson: I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that it would be before you then. I am quite keen to have this completed in a year. I have no magic foresight as to what might happen in the year 2001. There are people, of course all in the press, who talk about an election in 2001. That means of course that everything drops to the end. It doesn't get dealt with any more because Parliament no longer sits. I would like to see this review of the act completed. If there is to be an election sometime next year, whether it's in the summer, spring, or fall, I certainly hope your committee would have had the opportunity of effective analysis and witnesses in numbers that you wish so that you can do a proper job of committee work on the legislation.

I might add that the one big advantage you and the committee members will have is the information provided by the website. When you have 14,000 people hit the website, and a good number of them make comments by website, it will obviate the need for having every one of these people repeated in front of you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Before asking a couple of questions of the deputy minister, Mr. Minister, I would like to ask you a last question. In your opening statement you indicated that there are three roles for government: knowledge, incentives, and partnerships, which are very well chosen. Considering the fact that your plan would require a considerable amount of leadership, would you be willing to add leadership as one of the roles of government?

Mr. David Anderson: I would agree entirely that is one. Among the many things that could be added, that certainly is one. I think it's important to point out that the leadership of this committee is going to be important as well and the leadership of our House of Commons and individual members of Parliament. Very definitely that is important. This will extend beyond the specific narrow limits of our own jurisdiction.

I think some of us must talk about issues that cross jurisdictions, whether it be the moraine north of Toronto or issues in Alberta or elsewhere. I think we have to regard the political role as discussing issues, raising them in the public, and making sure there is consensus or at least understanding.

So I would agree with you, Mr. Chairman. I would not think it should be limited, however, to the minister's shoulders.

The Chair: Thank you.

I have two brief questions, Mr. Nymark. One, is the department conducting any research on MMT at the present time?

Mr. Alan Nymark: I'm not aware that they are.

The Chair: Would you inform this committee as to whether it may be so?

Mr. Alan Nymark: I'd be pleased to.

The Chair: If it is not the case, could you indicate to this committee whether and when you intend to launch any studies on MMT?

Mr. Alan Nymark: I would do so.

The Chair: Thank you.

My second question has to do with enforcement. As you know, this committee produced quite a report on enforcement in May 1998. One recommendation was to the effect that the Minister of the Environment update and publish a revised CEPA enforcement and compliance policy within six months of royal assent being given to Bill C-32, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Six months have elapsed. It's almost twelve. Could you indicate whether this item is being carried out?

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Mr. Alan Nymark: First, Mr. Chairman, as you know, we have undertaken a study of some 15 projects related to enforcement. Some 13 have been completed, and I believe you have received a summary of those 13. Second, we reallocated some funds in the last fiscal year to buttress our efforts on enforcement. Third, we have received some moneys in this current budget that represent by year three something in the order of a 50% increase in enforcement. We expect to hire about 50 new enforcement officers. I would hope that through the adding up of each of these pieces, we would be able to respond effectively to the request you've made.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Nymark. Has that policy been made public?

Mr. Alan Nymark: Do you mean the policy I just articulated?

The Chair: Has that policy been made public or circulated to parliamentarians?

Mr. Alan Nymark: I do not believe it has been to date.

The Chair: The recommendation specifically requests that it be published. Could you please inform the committee as to what your plan is in terms of implementing recommendation six?

Mr. Alan Nymark: When it is completed, we will certainly look at making it public.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Nymark.

We'll now turn to the second round and use the same sequence, starting with Mr. Hilstrom, please. One question each.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Let's talk about a practical, simple example, seeing as how we're short of time, with regard to the green municipal enabling fund. The Eastern Interlake Regional Co-op, on the edge of Lake Winnipeg, is an initiative where 13 municipalities are trying to have municipal waste come into a recycling co-op, where it's burned with natural gas. There are very few emissions, nothing but ash. There's a turbine attached to it that generates power, which is sold to Manitoba Hydro. That's the basic system.

Under this program you have a $100 million fund. It's administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. How much money would an individual project like that one expect to get out of Manitoba's portion? I assumed it's proportioned. What audit would be done by the federal government with regard to this program so that we don't have a billion-dollar boondoggle?

Mr. David Anderson: Mr. Hilstrom, it would indeed be a miracle if we got a billion-dollar boondoggle out of a $100 million program. You're very good on your side of the House at creating billion-dollar boondoggles out of very small amounts of money.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. David Anderson: Let me say that in fact it is in the hands of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They are administering the fund. I think you're correct, they probably will allocate it based on the province. Thus I would expect it to be inadequate for the type of proposal you have suggested.

However, in terms of the type of proposal you've suggested, we have asked for demonstration and development proposals. You're obviously suggesting something quite innovative. So it would clearly fall within that type of project, in my view at least, with the little I know about it. It would probably need some supplement from the provincial sources, and maybe some of the producers would be putting money into this as well. Once again, a partnership would have to be worked out. But I would see it being entirely the type of project that....

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Are the provinces not involved in these projects?

[English]

Mr. David Anderson: I have hand signals here.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, the Minister spoke about the participation of the provinces in these funds. However, there is no provincial presence in these funds. It says "the private sector, environmental groups, the federal government and the municipalities". It does not say "the provinces".

[English]

Mr. David Anderson: This is a separate federal fund, which will be administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. When I mentioned to Mr. Hilstrom that the money is probably going to be inadequate, I was just guessing, but if the money is inadequate, they would have to look to other sources to supplement it, and a clear one to look to would be the province.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Just to finish off, Mr. Chairman.... So there isn't a figure per project or a maximum that the federal government has negotiated.

Mr. David Anderson: No, we're not trying to do that. We're going to leave this one to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They have a pretty good track record.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

• 1730

[Translation]

The Chair: Madam Girard-Bujold, just one question please.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, just a while ago, the Minister spoke of CANDU. And my ears curled. I don't know if your tongue forked, but my ears curled. Do you know that right now, at CANDU nuclear reactor sites, many tonnes of waste are stored. These wastes have a radioactive life expectancy of 24,000 years. What are you going to do about that?

There is also talk of importing MOX. Are going to subject such imports to the new Environment Act or the current Act?

I spoke not long ago about sediment in the St. Lawrence. I did not speak to you about water. I spoke about sediment that was releasing toxins that are harmful to wildlife and fish. It is very significant.

Mr. David Anderson: In terms of greenhouse gases, it must not be forgotten that nuclear electricity generating plants around the world are contributing to their decline. However, as you mentioned, Madam Girard-Bujold, they cause another problem, which is the radioactive wastes from these plants.

At the federal level, we do not handle this directly; it is done by a special agency. I will ask my Deputy Minister to explain to you what is being done. Don't forget that there are millions of tonnes of carbon that are no longer being sent into the atmosphere because some countries in Europe, like France, are using nuclear generating stations for their electricity. Seventy percent of France's electricity comes from nuclear generating stations. In Germany, I think, the figure is 28%. No, less than that, but it has at least 28 plants or facilities.

It is one of the major problem for developed countries. I do not have a satisfactory answer as to how to change the situation. On the one hand, you have carbon, and on the other, nuclear waste.

[English]

Can you say something about the regulatory regime under the atomic energy—

The Chair: If I could possibly limit that answer....

Mr. David Anderson: Okay.

The Chair: We have Mr. Herron, Madam Kraft Sloan, and possibly the chair.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: I have one question. I know you know this file reasonably well from your time at DFO, and now here in Environment as well.

To cut to the chase, I know we need to hear from other stakeholders with respect to the Petitcodiac River Causeway, but what is your personal position with respect to whether that causeway needs to come out in a different span, whether that needs to be utilized? We're basically coming very close to destroying one of New Brunswick's natural legacies, being the Petitcodiac River and a lake that, according to the consensus of science, will die within 20 years anyway. Mr. Dhaliwal has been very cooperative in trying to look at the issue. Can we get some action, finally, and get a final target and timeline on the Petitcodiac River Causeway?

Mr. David Anderson: First, Mr. Herron, ministers no longer have personal positions and personal opinions, so I'll have to decline the personal aspect.

But I was the minister who opened the causeway when I was Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and we did proceed with the process, which, as you know, was quite complicated and involved a tremendous amount of public consultation. I'm delighted to hear you say Mr. Dhaliwal, my successor, is being so cooperative, but it is really at this point his file.

I will be supportive of his cooperative approach, I can assure you of that, but my own position, taken while Minister of DFO, was that at least I did take the critical decision of opening the gates, which was a bit of a yes or no, night or day, black or white, left or right, up or down decision.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Herron.

Madam Kraft Sloan, please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much.

As you know, and certainly through your support, I was able to attend the POPs protocol meeting in Bonn. The article on financial mechanisms is a very contentious issue, particularly for the north and the south. It has been called the “deal breaker” in terms of being able to bring the nations from the south on. Through the very able ability of the chair, Mr. John Buccini, they were able to work out a situation where Canada was going to head up an interim working group where they could look at trying to deal with this issue and hopefully come to some kind of agreement before the final POPs meeting in South Africa in the fall or winter—in December, I guess.

• 1735

I have two quick questions. First, what is the status of this process? Second, at the POPs meetings, there are a number of observers who have status—for example, aboriginal groups—and aboriginal groups and indigenous people are particularly concerned about this because they want to see a successful protocol. They also have a lot of sympathy with people from the southern nations. What kind of status might the aboriginal groups in Canada be able to have with this whole process, this interim process of trying to come up with a better solution?

Mr. David Anderson: I think the aboriginal groups can play a very important role as individual spokesmen, as part of the Canadian delegation.

Karen, the proposal you've made with respect to the delegation in the future—and I think the next meeting is in South Africa—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But what about now, for the interim meetings? I know they're still involved in the South Africa meetings, but what about the interim meetings that are going on right now?

Mr. David Anderson: I'll turn that over to the deputy. I don't know what representation would be at the interim meetings.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay.

Mr. David Anderson: By the way, I thank you for your work in Bonn. It was very effective to have a Canadian member of Parliament at that meeting.

The issue is a tough one—

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I know.

Mr. David Anderson: —because we can never forget that there are some countries that come and say, “You were talking about potential health problems, but we have deaths at the present time.” This issue of DDT in developing countries is truly a Faustian situation.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: This is just around the issue of financial mechanisms.

Mr. David Anderson: Yes, I'll turn that over to the deputy.

Mr. Alan Nymark: On the aboriginal representation, the minister and I recently met with Chief Fontaine on a broader set of issues as to how we can cooperate more directly on a number of files. Chief Fontaine did not raise this issue, and neither did we. But I would be pleased to look into it. I know Mr. Buccini is heading off to some interim meetings over the next two weeks.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: It's actually the ICC, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, with which I've been quite heavily involved, as well as other northern aboriginal groups.

Mr. Alan Nymark: I see. But I would be pleased to get back to you on that issue.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

There will be two final questions, one by Madame Girard-Bujold and one by the chair.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I have only one comment, Mr. Chairman. I deplore the fact that we had so little time to question the Minister. I find this all the more deplorable as this is the first time he has appeared before this Committee, so that we can ask him about everything to do with the environment. I would like the Minister to be able to come and tell us all about his budget appropriations and his vision, and to answer any questions we may have about his budget. Thank you.

The Chair: Madam Girard-Bujold, the Minister gave us two hours. He presented his vision very clearly.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I do not think that it is enough, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Needless to say, the Minister has other tasks.

[English]

Before concluding, Mr. Minister, may I ask you—-

[Translation]

Mr. David Anderson: I wish to add that I am always available to the Member of Parliament for the Bloc Québécois. I want to complain that she hardly ever asks me a question in the House. I hope that by the end of the year, I will again...

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: [Editor's note: Inaudible]

Mr. David Anderson: I am sorry to have rarely had the opportunity to answer a question from Ms. Girard-Bujold. The other Bloc Québécois MPs ask Ms. Stewart and others many questions. As for me, I am always there and always ready to answer.

The Chair: Thank you Mr. Minister.

[English]

One final question concerns the commission in Montreal created under the NAFTA agreement. Since the commission was in the news in recent times, is there an improvement in the role that Canada plays at the commission? Is there some leadership you intend to give through that commission? What is your intent with respect to the CEC in Montreal?

Mr. David Anderson: I am an enthusiast for the CEC in Montreal. This is a very unusual mechanism where it's possible for citizens from either Mexico, Canada, or the United States, all three countries, to in fact put forward requests for investigation in the factual record and for subsequent action. We have to recognize, though, that this is very new, it's unusual, and it is not very well financed. There's $3 million a year from each country. It is not a substitute for all the processes within our own countries.

• 1740

I hope we can have an effective, transparent process with the CEC. I believe it's had only one item that has been followed through, which is a dock in Cozumel or something like that in Mexico. In British Columbia, we have the Fisheries Act issue with British Columbia Hydro. There have been changes, and the NDP government of British Columbia points out that they now have a different forest code from the basis of the complaints put forward. I don't know what will come there.

Another Canadian issue was for a factual record, which is related to the Oldman River. There we have legal appeals taking place in Canada. It may be appropriate that we play out the Canadian hand before the CEC is involved. The third case, referring to Canada, is the Quebec agriculture case. Once again, I think the auditor general of the province has investigated the matter and the process has been altered, the procedures of the province have been altered.

All I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, is that we want to make sure we have an effective process. We also want to make sure we have a process that doesn't keep dealing with history, that is actually pertinent to facts and reality today. Where we do have provinces or indeed other regulatory agencies, such as a federal government perhaps, changing processes to improve them, the question as to how much money and time should be spent analysing history is a good one.

In any event, the basis of this is simply to say that I think it should be expected that a new mechanism will be looked at. How can we improve it? Is it achieving goals? Is it meeting all the requirements and the expectations? I do reject out of hand the view that any discussion of how to improve this is somehow a weakening of the CEC. That is not the case.

We're committed to making the thing work and we look forward to the national action committee, the Canadian group, and the international group of stakeholders playing a critical role in making this an effective agency. It really is unique and it gives tremendous opportunity. Because it's unique, if it's misused or if it turns out to be ineffective, it will probably drift off and not become the type of agency it could.

By contrast, if you think of the International Joint Commission between Canada and the U.S. and what a tremendous agency that has been over time in dealing with many problems, I think it has great potential, and I'm very encouraged by the fact that it's being active. I fully support the executive director and the secretariat.

The Chair: Well, the vote is just about to take place. Mr. Minister, let me thank you for your very kind words with respect to the work done by this committee. Let me thank you, on behalf of all the members, for your appearance today with the officials. This has been most informative. We hope to see you again soon and we wish you well in your implementation of your very difficult task.

This meeting is adjourned.