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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]

Tuesday, May 30, 2000

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[Translation]

The Chairman (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Richard Smith, the Acting Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and his colleagues.

[English]

This is an important yearly event. As you know, it is based on the report, which in this case is the fourth report of the commissioner. It is a document that was made available to members of the committee as of 8 a.m. today. It is an opportunity to review the progress, or lack thereof, made on the difficult and challenging path of sustainable development.

Without further delay, Mr. Smith, I welcome you to the committee on behalf of my colleagues. I invite you to introduce your colleagues and make a brief statement.

Mr. Richard Smith (Acting Commissioner, Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

With me are Gisèle Grandbois, Ellen Shillabeer, and James Hood, who are all from the Office of the Auditor General. Both Gisèle and Ellen are part of my staff, as well.

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Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the committee to discuss our 2000 report. This is the fourth annual report since the position of commissioner was established within the Office of the Auditor General. Much of it was prepared under the leadership of Brian Emmett. The team Brian built is committed to continuing the work he began and serving Parliament and this committee to the best of our ability.

The report's main message is that the federal government continues to have real difficulty turning its sustainable development commitment into concrete action. We note that partnerships have figured prominently in the federal government's approach to sustainable development, and for very good reason. Responsibility for sustainable development is widely shared. Typically, a number of organizations are responsible for one aspect of an issue or another, but none is responsible for the whole.

Federal departments need to work with each other, other governments, and other partners to deliver results for Canadians efficiently and effectively. That's what this year's report is all about. How do we make partnerships work? We also talk about the consequences when they don't work.

[Translation]

That is what this year's report is about—how to make partnerships work. It also describes what happens when these partnerships do not work. Let us take smog, as an example.

[English]

Smog is a prime example of what happens when partnerships fail, as chapter 4 illustrates. For a decade, the federal government has said that Canada's smog problem is a major public health issue that also poses a serious threat to the environment. It is estimated that air pollution is responsible for 5,000 premature deaths a year in 11 major cities across Canada. In other words, more Canadians die each year as a result of air pollution than as a result of breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, or even motor vehicle accidents.

[Translation]

More Canadians die each year as a result of air pollution than as a result of breast cancer, prostate cancer, or melanoma. More Canadians die each year as a result of air pollution than as a result of motor vehicle accidents.

[English]

Ten years ago, recognizing the serious consequences of ground-level ozone, which is a key component of smog, federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of the environment endorsed a plan to reduce it. Their goal was to fully resolve the issue by 2005. Governments started on the right foot, but they failed to take the next steps.

[Translation]

Governments started on the right foot, but failed to take the next steps. They agreed on a plan, but did not implement it as envisioned.

[English]

They agreed on a plan, but did not implement it as envisioned. Meanwhile, past improvements in air quality are being eroded by increased emissions from more vehicles and more energy use. Pollutant levels, once thought safe, are now being questioned. Canada's smog plan failed because the partnership that underpinned it did not work.

[Translation]

The smog plan failed because the partnership that underpinned it did not work.

[English]

While the federal government did most of what it said it would do, it failed in its most important task, to lead the national effort to reduce smog. Now Canada's smog problem is far from resolved and a new approach is needed.

But smog is not an isolated case. In earlier reports, we have identified persistent problems with the federal government's management of key issues like climate change, toxic substances, and biological diversity. Partnerships are not working as Canadians expect them to, and commitments to Canadians are not being met.

That need not be the case. In chapters 5 through 8, we looked at 17 examples of partnerships in areas like biotechnology, acid rain, forestry, and mining. Some of the arrangements were successful. The first nation forestry program and the eastern Canada acid rain program are good examples.

[Translation]

The Alcan experience, in the Saguenay, is another good example of a successful partnership.

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[English]

Developing and maintaining a good working relationship is important to successful partnership, but strong accountability mechanisms are also critical. Central agencies have an important role to play in strengthening the management of issues that cut across departmental mandates.

In many respects, building a good working relationship is a bit like building a house. You need a solid foundation, clear blueprints, and attention to detail. The plumbers and carpenters each need to know what to do and what each other is doing. Weaknesses in any of these areas can cause the house to collapse, and we see a number of houses collapsing.

In chapter 3 we undertook a study to provide parliamentarians with information on federal government support for energy investments, and determine whether that support favoured the non-renewable energy sector. We were particularly interested in the tax system, because it is less transparent than direct spending. We also wanted to explore why energy from renewable resources, other than large-scale hydro, made up such a small part of Canada's overall energy mix.

We found that while most energy-related federal spending and tax incentives have historically been directed to non-renewable resources, which are the predominant source of energy in Canada, that situation has changed significantly over time. In recent years, the federal government has reduced spending and eliminated some tax provisions related to non-renewable energy, and tightened others. It has also expanded some tax provisions for renewable energy.

From a financial perspective, many renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects do not currently have the characteristics that make them attractive to investors. Given the barriers we identified in the study, the federal government may wish to consider new strategies and approaches to achieve its objective of encouraging more investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Chapter 1 reports on implementation of the sustainable development strategies that departments tabled in the House of Commons in 1997. Strategy implementation is progressing, with departments reporting that 20% of their commitments have been met, compared to 11% last year. We observed improvements in the management practices that are being applied to strategy delivery.

I remain concerned, however, that most departments do not report in a way that allows parliamentarians and the public to judge whether the strategies are on track, or whether corrective action is needed.

Departments are now preparing their second strategies for presentation to the House by the end of this year. Last December, we released a document setting out our expectations for those strategies. I expect to see a significant improvement in the quality of the strategies during the second round. We will be providing a preliminary assessment of these strategies in our next report.

[Translation]

The report also emphasizes how important it is for the government to put its own house in order. The federal government must set the example.

[English]

Chapter 2 asks whether the federal government has the information it needs to manage the environmental consequences of its own operations. We found that progress has been slow and uneven in developing common measures. As a result, the federal government cannot monitor or report on its overall progress. It does not know what its total energy bill or water bill is. It does not know how much it spends on things like waste disposal, and it should.

Finally, chapter 9 presents the first follow-up of the work we have done since the position of commissioner was established. Follow-up helps us determine whether departments are adequately addressing our earlier observations and recommendations.

We looked at the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, ozone layer protection, biological diversity, and environmental assessment. I note in the report that I'm satisfied with progress in the two areas of ozone protection and biological diversity. But I'm not happy with progress on hazardous waste or on environmental assessment.

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Overall, progress has been slow. After two years, only 5% of our recommendations have been addressed fully. On 53%, progress has been unsatisfactory. Departments clearly need to accelerate their efforts.

Mr. Chairman, I hope all of the chapters in this year's report will be of interest to the committee. I know the committee cannot deal with all the subjects we've raised, but we'd appreciate the opportunity to discuss the key issues today and possibly in future meetings.

We'd be pleased to respond to questions now. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Smith.

Before we start the round of questions at five minutes for each member so as to allow for a second round, I would be remiss if I didn't say a word about your predecessor, Mr. Brian Emmett, and recognize the tremendous effort and work that he has performed and given to the public cause in his years as the first commissioner. We are all indebted to the fine work and input that he provided to Parliament, particularly to the members of this committee. We would like, through you, Mr. Smith, to convey to him the sentiments of our admiration for his activity and to wish him well in his new role as vice-president at the Canadian International Development Agency.

Mr. Richard Smith: I'd be pleased to do that, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Smith.

We have now Mr. Jaffer. Mr. Jaffer, please try to do it within five minutes. We will have a second round.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Canadian Alliance): I'll do my best, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your presentation and thank you to all of you for being here today.

I'll start with one question. When I was looking over chapter 1, and especially here in your news release, there were two lines that basically summarized the situation. In last year's report the commissioner observed that the department's targets for sustainable development were neither clear nor measurable, and recommended that they go back to the drawing board. This year he found that only half of the revised targets were clear and specified a completion date. Only 45% of departments actually included targets and performance indicators in their progress reports.

This causes some concern, Mr. Smith. Obviously there is a problem with progress being made in the department. Given the fact that the progress has been slow, in your opinion, does it look like the government is on track? Is there going to be some progress made or are we totally out to lunch here?

Mr. Richard Smith: I think there are some indicators that progress is being made. The numbers I quoted as having moved up from 11% to 20% are an indicator that there is some progress. It will never reach 100% because for a large number of the commitments, you can't tell whether they would be met, whether they will ever be met.

We see some progress being made in the management systems that departments are applying to their sustainable development strategies. That is good to see because it starts getting into the federal government moving into a preventative mode of dealing with environmental issues rather than a reactive mode. That is good to see.

The other side of the coin is that when we did the audits, departments were a little over halfway through implementing their first strategies. They have completed only 20% of what they said they would do. So there's a long way to go. I think they are falling behind.

One important point, though, is that this is the department's first sustainable development strategy. We are the only country in the world that requires all of our major ministries to prepare sustainable development strategies. Departments are learning how to do them. I would pay particular attention to what they will do in their second strategies, where I would expect them to be much more focused, much more measurable. They should be able to tell whether they're making progress.

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Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Hopefully that's the case, Mr. Smith. But at the same time, you do say in your report that the lack of sustained central leadership is a concern. Right now you mention that there was some progress being made on the management systems, but if there's a lack of central leadership present, then I don't know how in fact we're going to make those changes or the progress that's being made. Maybe you'd like to expand on that particular point.

Mr. Richard Smith: I think you're right to be concerned about that issue. It concerns me as well. Right now we have a situation where 28 departments are moving forward largely on their own, and there are substantial benefits to those departments working much more closely together to meet common objectives. That requires much more central direction than we're seeing right now.

If you want to draw a little bit of an historical analogy, ten years ago when the federal government launched its green plan, it was very much a strategy for sustainable development that was centrally directed. Today the Government of Canada is following a path in which it's being left up to individual ministers to decide where the department should be going. I think we need to move the pendulum back a little bit to get the benefit of both central direction and decentralized initiative.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: That would also include the sharing of information amongst departments. That's obviously a weakness as well.

Mr. Richard Smith: Yes, very much so.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I have one last question. I don't know how much time I have.

On the same issue of the central leadership and trying to build a strategy that works, you talk about the idea of partnerships. In some cases partnerships have worked and some have failed. One of the concerns I have is that often I don't see any type of commitment when it comes to developing partnerships with people who are in charge of sustainable development in this country, industry, in trying to actually work with those stakeholders just as much as with the environmental side.

Could you comment on that? Where do you see the strategy coming from in this government, if there is leadership being shown in that area of trying to develop those meaningful partnerships? In order to create a comfortable environment in this country, you have to include all stakeholders. I often don't see that happening. What's your opinion on that?

Mr. Richard Smith: Partnership is used a lot in government discourse. I think it's part of virtually every speech that you see given these days. We try to give a pretty balanced picture of a whole range of partnerships. In our chapters 5 through 8, we talk about federal government departments working with each other. That's important. We talk about federal departments working with provincial and territorial governments and that is important. We also talk about the federal government working particularly with the private sector, and there are a number of good examples of successful cooperation.

What we tend to see, however, is that some of the basic fundamentals of what goes into a good partnership are not being applied. These are fairly simple things like a statement of who is going to do what by when, a method of monitoring progress over time to see whether we're on track, methods for dealing with mid-course adjustments along the way. We don't see some of those very fundamental concepts being built into partnership. So they tend to be long on commitment and weaker in translating that commitment into concrete action.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Do I still have time?

The Chairman: You'll have to continue in the second round.

[Translation]

Ms. Girard-Bujold, please.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Welcome, Mr. Commissioner, and congratulations on your appointment.

I examined all this wealth of information you tabled this morning. I must confess that I wasn't able to grasp everything because there was too much information. I did, however, take a look at three or four of the files you identified in chapters 3, 4 and 5 of your report.

Chapter 3 deals with government assistance to investments in the energy sector. You state that if the Canadian government does not do anything to encourage investment in renewable energy, it will not meet its Kyoto commitments.

In your statement, you also said that the government is currently waging a war against smog. The graph shown on page 4-18 took my breath away. You stated that if we do not do anything to eliminate smog, the negative impact of air pollution on health will continue to grow. I see that you have included a whole series of graphs and information on the issue and you deplore the fact that the government has not yet taken the required steps to eliminate smog.

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You also talked about the need to build effective partnerships, including partnerships between the various departments. Since I have been sitting here, in the House of Commons, I have heard the Commissioner state, every time he appears, that the agreements between departments are proving to be extremely difficult and that there is no clear definition of responsibilities.

We hear about more partnerships with the various government levels. You know that a lot of rhetoric is coming out of the federal government right now. It says that it is open to the idea of building partnerships, but when the time comes to take action, it does not recognize those responsibilities that come under provincial jurisdiction. Nor does it recognize the incentives established by the provinces to reach a global agreement to eliminate greenhouse gases.

I would like to hear what you have to say on these three issues. Thank you.

[English]

The Chairman: And all that within four minutes.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, renewable energies have a direct and positive impact on climate change and smog. We cannot simply ignore this situation. Our report describes how difficult it is for renewable energies to penetrate the market. Generally speaking, they are more expensive than non-renewable energies and investors have to wait longer in order to get a return on their investment. This is a significant problem. In our opinion, the government should take a look at this situation if they want to achieve positive results with respect to smog and climate change.

Managing partnerships has proven to be difficult, as you said, but it does have some of the same features as effective labour relations. We believe that you must specify who does what and when. We must develop a monitoring system and a mechanism in order to communicate results. We need a process that will enable us to make mid-course corrections. These are the fundamental characteristics that must underpin partnerships. In many situations, the federal government does not put enough emphasis on these fundamental characteristics.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Your report talks about the government's financial incentives for investment in the energy sector. When the Minister of the Environment was last in Germany, he promoted nuclear energy despite the fact that we know that this is a source of non-renewable energy. You have told us that if we are to meet our Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to promote renewable energy.

The government, through its Minister of the Environment, stated that it would be promoting energy produced by nuclear plants. As I said earlier, the government says all the right things, but it will never meet the objectives that it had announced.

When I heard the Minister of the Environment make this statement in Germany a few months ago, I was bowled over. In my opinion, this statement is not credible. Your report is in agreement that statement. How can we get this government to really get on track so that it will abide by the commitments it made in Kyoto?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, this question pertains primarily to government policy. It is not up to me to make comments on policy; rather, my role is to examine the way policy is implemented. Our report indicated that there were some obstacles to investing in the renewable energy sector. We are recommending to the government that it change its approach, that it provide more encouragement to investing in the renewable energy sector and that it increase efficiencies with respect to energy consumption.

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The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Mr. Gruending, the floor is yours.

[English]

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

Thank you, Mr. Smith and your colleagues for coming. I'd like to say we're very pleased to have you around, because you focus the analysis of what is or isn't happening related to the environment in ways that certainly individual MPs don't have the resources and in some cases the knowledge to do.

I'd like to talk briefly about smog. I'll start by saying I'm very alarmed by what I read in here, that there are approximately 5,000 deaths a year that can be attributed to it. When I think in terms that mean a lot to me, this is almost as many people as live in the two largest rural towns in my riding. It's incredible.

You mentioned as well that two-thirds of the population, about 20 million people, are exposed to harmful levels of pollutants. I must say that as a new member of Parliament looking at this, I'm shocked.

What I read in your report is that in about 1990 the federal and provincial governments set up a kind of management plan on this, promised to do a whole lot of things, and essentially not very much has happened. Maybe I'm telescoping things.

I would like to know why you think things didn't happen, and what has to happen if we say what is most important to do right now to get ourselves on track to reducing and eliminating the number of deaths and all the other illnesses, like asthma, that may be related to this. Why hasn't something happened, and what has to happen?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, it's from my perspective a fascinating story, in that the federal government led the national effort to develop the smog plan in the first place back in 1990, but it was unable to take it the next step. They were able to obtain agreement with provincial and territorial governments on what a broad national target should be. That was based on estimates at that time on what was needed to bring levels down to protect human health.

Subsequently, though, the next step of the plan was to get each one of the partners to put in writing what it was going to do, and by when, to develop a more detailed action plan to take this commitment to deal with the problem and translate that into concrete action. And that didn't happen.

Part of the reason is that there was a major change in the economic situation after 1990. You might recall there was a very serious recession that preceded the launching of the plan, and the priorities of governments changed, at least partially, in reaction to the changing economic circumstances. But regardless of what the specific reason was, it didn't get taken into its next step.

I've learned that one of the best tests of commitment to a particular goal is how you deal with it when circumstances change. We saw circumstances changing, but the actions did not change in response to them.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: We are certainly not in a recession now, so what do we have to do to grab this and actually make some progress?

Mr. Richard Smith: What we talk about in the report is what is required to make a partnership work. I've mentioned to your colleagues what our short-form answer to that is. We need a clear specification of who's going to do what by when. We need a method for monitoring progress, and we need a way of dealing with mid-course adjustments as they go along. These are the commonsense things we would expect to see from the Government of Canada as it moves ahead on the smog file.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: The quick final question regards the way the department responds to your criticisms—things like “agree it's an important health concern”, “further concerted action and sustained investment to address the problem”, and “work with other levels of government”. I'm frustrated by that, because it seems like more of the same. How do you view the department's response?

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Mr. Richard Smith: It's like, is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?

I'm pleased to see that the department and the minister agree with our statement that this is indeed an important public health issue and is one that requires significant action. I would be happier to see a more concrete statement of, as I said, who is going to do what by when and things like that. I would like to see the management blueprint that's going to underpin the federal government's approach to smog, and I haven't seen it yet.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Gruending.

Madame Kraft Sloan, Madame Carroll, Mr. Pratt, Mr. Herron, the chair.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank you, witnesses, for your very substantial report. There's a lot of information to go through. We certainly did enjoy the other reports we received, and I'm sure we will continue to enjoy these.

I wanted to turn your attention to page 4-47, paragraph 4.195, where you go on and you talk about the necessity of transparent information. This is related, although it may be indirectly relate... The Commission for Environmental Cooperation in their agreement through NAFTA has an article, and I believe it's article 14, where individuals can make application—and I don't have the details in front of me, I apologize—where I believe it's the CEC that will look at the activities of the government to ensure that they are properly acting on their environmental laws, etc., and their commitments.

We've had two recent situations where applications had been turned down, and there has been some discussion of the possibility that article 14 may be weakened. I'm wondering, in your opinion, how important article 14 would be in terms of dealing with some of the issues around the transparency of information.

Mr. Richard Smith: We haven't looked, as an office, at article 14. But we did look very extensively at the types of information being provided by the Government of Canada in support of the smog problem and its efforts to reduce it. One of the key conclusions we arrived at was that the Government of Canada failed to provide either parliamentarians or the public with the type of information they could use to judge whether the smog plan was on track. So there should be mechanisms in place through reporting to Parliament, for example, that do provide this type of information. And it was not there.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: And if we take a look at the publication the CEC comes out with, Taking Stock, is this a publication that would aid in the transparency of information? Are there ways in which you can see this publication improved or strengthened?

Mr. Richard Smith: As I said, we have not taken a look at the activities of the CEC yet as an office.

The focus on the Taking Stock report, as you know, is very much more on the toxic substances side. Our audit here was dealing with a broader range of air quality issues.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay.

In regard to the discussion you had on the harmonization agreement, the subagreement on Canada-wide standards setting, as part of that agreement there was a mandatory two-year review provision built into the agreement. We are now five months past the two-year signing of that agreement. On page 4-53 in your report you had indicated that it remains to be seen whether the new Canada-wide standard process will prove to be more effective, etc. I'm wondering if your office had concerns about the fact that we haven't heard any mention of the two-year review starting. I'm wondering if your office has looked at this issue or has concerns around it.

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Mr. Richard Smith: We haven't looked at that issue yet, but it's something we will go back and talk about.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Okay.

The Chairman: Thank you, Madam Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Pratt, followed by Mr. Herron.

Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to join my colleagues in welcoming Mr. Smith to the environment committee as well. Thank you for being here. Your presentation was very interesting. In particular, I was drawn to your comments, as Mr. Gruending was, on the issue of smog.

Looking at the issue of sources for nitrogen oxides, when you look at the transportation sector on page 4-22, it's really quite astounding that 52% of nitrogen oxides are coming from the transportation sector. I'm wondering if you have any comments with respect to what sorts of things the federal government is doing in terms of improving our rapid transit infrastructure in terms of national programs. In particular, one of my hobby horses over the years has been the whole issue of providing tax-exempt transit passes by employers to employees as a means of encouraging people to use public transit and get out of their individual vehicles and into the public system.

Do you have any comments on that whole issue on whether or not the government is doing as much as it could or should be doing as far as the whole issue of partnerships, working with the provincial governments and the municipalities in order to get more people riding public transit? Because it seems to me, with the cutbacks that have occurred, especially at the provincial level, to municipal transit authorities, and having been on the OC Transpo commission myself for a number of years, those public transit commissions have been hit very hard over the last number of years. Do you have any comments on that whole situation?

Mr. Richard Smith: I have a little anecdote to start off, if I may.

When the Office of the Auditor General was putting together its own sustainable development strategy, one of the things we did was eliminate the government parking subsidy for our employees, in a sense to tilt the playing field back. We have not gone as far as to consider subsidizing transit use, but it's a concrete step. You can do things that start in your own house if you want.

In terms of the broader issues you raise about national transport, I think all of the full range of air quality issues we face in Canada are clearly related to how we use energy. Getting people to change the way they come to work, how they come to work, whether they use the bus or not, I think is going to be an important question to be asked in the formulation of any policy to deal with smog, to deal with climate change.

We have not looked specifically at those types of issues, but looking at transportation policy in Canada is something I would like to do in the future for our office. I think it's an important area to look at, for the reasons you've suggested.

Your specific comment about incentives for transit use I think might be better addressed to the Minister of Finance than to me.

Mr. David Pratt: I was wondering, given that you've obviously been involved in the parking issue, which is an integral issue to getting people out of their cars and into public transit, have you given any consideration to that idea? Have you looked at that idea of employer-provided transit passes in any depth at all?

Mr. Richard Smith: We haven't as an office yet.

Mr. David Pratt: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Pratt.

Mr. Herron, please.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

• 1145

When I was in earlier during the lock-up, one page that struck me the most refers to chapter 3. Coming out of Kyoto, it was quite evident that we didn't have a realistic implementation strategy whatsoever. One of the things that many people have been advocating, including our party, is that we should be adopting more of a no regress, which Gary Mar, the Alberta energy minister, refers to as best efforts. We should have more aggressive incentives from a tax regime for renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

Could you compare what we're doing on the tax incentive side, or just give some input about what we're doing now, compared with what the Americans are doing, following Mr. Clinton's announcement that he's going to allocate between $9 billion and $10 billion for energy efficiency initiatives? From a proportional perspective, are we even in the same ballpark?

Mr. Richard Smith: Let me try to answer the first part of your question, and then I'll ask my colleague Jamie Hood to comment, if he could.

My own perspective on energy policy in Canada is that it has shifted fairly dramatically over the last twenty years. For a wide variety of reasons, including security of supply-type reasons and regional development reasons, historically in Canada there was a lot of federal support both through the tax system and financially to support oil and gas exploration and oil and gas use. We've seen that pendulum shift over time to the point where by and large—there are some exceptions—the playing field is close to being level. There's not an incentive or a disincentive that favours one sector over the other.

But I think the policy question you are posing is, given the commitments the government has made in terms of climate change and dealing with smog, is a level playing field good enough, or are we going to have to consider perhaps some kind of special treatment to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy? I think that's the policy debate that has to take place. I'm not part of that policy debate, but what we tried to do with the study was to attempt to clarify what the issues were as we saw them.

I'm not aware of whether in the course of our study we have done any comparisons with what other countries are doing. I don't think we have, Jamie.

Mr. James Hood (Principal, Audit Operations, Office of the Auditor General of Canada): No, we haven't.

Mr. Richard Smith: Unfortunately, I'm not able to answer your second question.

Mr. John Herron: At the end of your press release it says:

    The federal government needs to find innovative solutions to help overcome the barriers to investing in renewable energy.

You say that the government should consider doing this, so it's your assessment right now that you haven't seen any clear signal that the government in an aggressive fashion is going to provide tax incentives for renewable sources of energy or energy efficiency initiatives.

My last comment: Do you see a leadership problem with regard to the climate change file? After Kyoto it was the Minister of the Environment who was supposed to be in charge of the foreign relations on climate change and the Minister of Natural Resources for the domestic regime. But as of late we've clearly seen a foray from the Minister of the Environment into the domestic file. Do you think that set-up has added to some of the confusion in the system?

The Chairman: I'm not sure that the commissioner could comment on leadership questions at the political level, but give it a try, Mr. Smith.

Mr. John Herron: From a management perspective, of course, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, in a sense it's pretty simple to give the management response to the policy question. To me it's absolutely crucial that there be a leader. I won't comment on who that leader should be or who's best positioned to do it.

The debate is underway now in terms of how Canada is going to meet its Kyoto targets as part of the national implementation strategy process. So I think people are being engaged in the type of discussion we hope to see happening as a result of our report.

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In addition, we do follow-ups. We're like the dirty penny that doesn't go away. We keep coming back to see if people are responding to recommendations we've made before. Over the course of the next year we are going to be looking at how the government is managing climate change in response to our earlier audit of it. We're also going to be looking at how they've been dealing with our earlier audit on energy efficiency. So down the road we will be in a better position to address some of these questions, to look at what decisions have been made and how those decisions are being implemented, as opposed to what those decisions should be.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Herron.

We'll start the second round very soon. There are just three questions from the chair to complete the first round.

On energy investments, you say a number of very interesting things in your report, Mr. Smith. You also bring about here a policy conflict. In paragraph 3.68 you mention that the tax system does not give any preferential treatment to certain investments that improve energy efficiency. Then in paragraph 3.69 you refer to the investments in oil sands, which receive significant tax concessions. Keeping the focus on climate change, would you like to elaborate on those two observations you are making—namely, is there a conflict within the tax policy of the Government of Canada, and secondly, do we have a tax policy that favours greater production of carbon dioxide emissions?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, what we are trying to do with the report is sort of cast light on what exists so that the policy debate about what should be can carry on in an informed way.

We stated factually in the report that the tax system, as you noted, does not give preferential treatment to energy efficiency investments. To me, then, the policy question that flows out of that is should it. I think that question needs to be dealt with in the context of what the government is trying to achieve in terms of its smog and climate change objectives. I think the question people should be asking is whether neutrality is good enough.

With regard to the situation we talk about in paragraph 3.69, we do point to the fact that yes, investments in oil sands do receive significant tax concessions. As I said, that is a statement of fact. The policy question then becomes, should it? I will leave the asking of those policy questions to the committee to be directed to the Department of Finance.

The Chairman: Maybe you will bring all these elements together in your report next year.

Mr. Richard Smith: In what context, Mr. Chairman?

The Chairman: In your report next year on the climate change policy observations.

Mr. Richard Smith: Yes, indeed.

The Chairman: Moving swiftly to the national forest strategy, paragraphs 7.35 and 7.36, you conclude by saying that the strategy is in danger of losing momentum, and you observe that the strategy lacks the presenting of priorities or specific roles and responsibilities of the various organizations that signed the Canada Forest Accord. In addition to that, I would like to ask you to comment as to why in your report on forests you do not make any observation as to whether the management of our forest resources is on a sustainable path.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, when we did the series of chapters, it was from the perspective of trying to better understand whether or not the partnerships that have been formed to deal with these issues are working and what lessons we could draw from these types of partnerships.

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You're right in concluding that we asked a fairly narrow set of questions, because those were the types of answers we were trying to get. A broader look at sustainable forestry in Canada would require a more in-depth analysis, either by our office or by somebody else, which we have not undertaken yet at this time.

The Chairman: Do you intend to undertake it?

Mr. Richard Smith: I will take that as a suggestion from the committee.

The Chairman: Finally, Mr. Smith, is it fair to conclude from your comments and observations relating to the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board that they could perform a much greater and more vigorous role than they have so far in assisting you in pursuing your objectives?

Mr. Richard Smith: That's the conclusion we present in the paper.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Second round. We'll start with Mr. Jaffer, and the same order as before.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to focus a little bit on the allocation of resources. I know Mr. Gruending talked a little bit about the issue of the smog, and when you responded to that you said you would like to see a blueprint of smog and how the government is going to attack the problem and how it would work it out.

Recently we saw allocations from the federal government put toward smog reduction, as well acid rain. In the last budget we saw resources being allocated toward an institute for climate change study, or something along those lines. I guess what I'm trying to focus in on and what I'd like your opinion on is that often we see these sorts of spending strategies especially as there is a pending election, but what I would like to see is that... In your opinion, do these types of resource allocations achieve the goals we're trying to achieve? Or in fact when you talk about the partnerships that need to be developed, and in order to avoid duplication maybe of things that are already out there, could this money be funnelled in a better way to create stakeholder involvement in a positive direction? What is your overall opinion on those sorts of strategies?

Mr. Richard Smith: It's difficult for my office to judge something in advance. Almost by the nature of our work, we come in after and can comment on whether things went as they were intended to go. Were the results that were set out actually achieved? Was the program well managed? So we provide that retrospective type of analysis to Parliament. But in doing that, what we hope to be able to put before departments and before parliamentarians is a good picture of what the key ingredients of success are. I think in our smog chapter we try to do that by talking about what the key ingredients of a successful partnership are. I've talked about my three things that I'd like to see done better, but as I said, we are in the retrospective business, as opposed to the prospective business.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I can understand that, especially in light of the fact that some of these programs are fairly recent, so it's tough to evaluate.

Could you then maybe back up in some cases? In some of your studies that you have been undertaking in the past, if you evaluate these various strategies in the past of various forms of success, the success rates in the way partnerships have existed, especially when it comes to allocating resources in the way that sometimes government tends to be independent of things that are already out there... Could you comment, in light of what you've studied to date, on past strategies and the success rates of those?

Mr. Richard Smith: If you look at the key issues my predecessor has brought before this committee since our office was established, the record does not look very good on some of the key issues facing the Government of Canada. We've talked about climate change, for example. We've talked about biological diversity. We have talked about management of toxic substances. In each one of those, we have found fundamental weaknesses in the way the Government of Canada was managing those files.

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Let me flip to the other side of the coin, however. We've also found some good examples of how the federal government can work. We talked about ozone layer depletion and the leadership the federal government has demonstrated nationally and internationally in what is from my perspective a major success story. We talk as well in this report about things such as the first nations forestry program, the eastern Ontario acid rain program, the partnership in the Saguenay involving Alcan and Natural Resources Canada. There are good examples out there.

Part of our role is to try to ensure that lessons are being learned from both the good and the bad. My bottom line is we want to see an improvement in the federal government's overall performance, and that means learning from what it's done well and learning from its mistakes at the same time.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I guess you may have already stated this in your vision, at least to some extent, when you explained about the partnerships, but I guess I would like a final clarification. If we were to suggest, in an ideal almost, how these partnerships should be developed with government, in your opinion what would they look like? What should the government be focusing in on in trying to establish those partnerships, just as a quick summary?

Mr. Richard Smith: One of my observations, having worked in the policy field for most of my career, is that unfortunately there's a tendency to view an agreement as an end in itself. It becomes a success point. I think one of the key messages I would like to deliver is that these types of partnerships, these types of agreements, are means to an end, and the end is delivering results for Canadians in an efficient, effective, environmentally friendly manner. So recognize that forming an agreement is just a stage in the process.

In the agreement itself, I think we're fairly clear about what we would like to see, and I've talked about that. It's very simple things like a clear statement of who's going to do what by when. That did not exist in the smog program, and it should have. It's ways of measuring progress. One of the reasons the smog plan was able to continue for ten years without substantial criticism was that the Government of Canada did not make it easy for people to understand whether it was on track or not. So that transparency of information is really important.

Finally, as I said, there should be a provision for mid-course correction. You'll never get a perfect plan agreed to at the beginning, so you need a way to be able to modify the agreement as we go along. We rarely see that in terms of the types of partnerships that are being put together.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Jaffer.

[Translation]

Ms. Girard-Bujold, please.

Ms. Girard-Bujold: Mr. Commissioner, in Chapter 6, “Working Together in the Federal Government”, from 6.83 to 6.99, you deal with biodiversity as opposed to the Biosafety Protocol. You also discuss the international rules for the transboundary movement of genetically modified living organisms. You discuss this entire issue in several places. Did you limit yourself to making this observation or did you go a little bit further in order to define what these things were? I was in Montreal for the Biosafety Protocol, where trade and environment were constantly at loggerheads with each other. I would like to hear your comments on this issue.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, this was, in my opinion, poor communication. Most people have a tendency to categorize situations. It's either one thing or another. However, the objective we sought in our report was simply to initiate a good dialogue on the benefits of having a good relationship between trade and the environment. Perhaps my colleague Gisèle could say something about this.

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Ms. Gisèle Grandbois (Director, Audit Operations, Office of the Auditor General of Canada): Indeed, the example that you gave, the Biosafety Protocol, was reviewed. We focussed only on co-ordination between the federal departments. We did not really go into the framework of this review.

The results for the review on this co-ordination exercise were, let's say, mixed. We gave good marks because they did manage to keep a dialogue going between the departments representing trade and economic interests and those representing the environmental issues. Hence, under very difficult circumstances, they managed to reach an agreement on a position and to present it, which was no easy task.

Furthermore, we observed that they must continue to try to find mechanisms to reconcile and manage the tensions or conflicts that result from these diverging interests. It is quite a challenge. Nevertheless we feel that, as far as this file is concerned, they have been quite successful.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: As the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, your current concern should be the environment and sustainable development. Given your objective, do you not feel that trade interests have been given much greater priority than environmental and sustainable development interests?

As a next step, do you intend to do a more in-depth analysis of genetically modified organisms? Do you intend to do an analysis? As we speak, Canadians and Quebeckers are not sure about what they're eating and, in Canada, there is no mandatory labelling for genetically modified organisms.

Developing countries were very active participants in the discussions on the Biosafety Protocol held in Montreal last winter. They felt that they were the ones who would have to pay for the consequences of this agreement. In addition, we don't even know whether or not the Canadian government is going to sign the Biosafety Protocol.

Mr. Commissioner, I would like to hear your views on the matter and I would like to know whether or not you intend to follow up on the observations made in your report.

The Chairman: Briefly, please.

Mr. Richard Smith: In our opinion, the federal government must adopt a strategic approach to manage tensions between trade and environmental objectives.

As for the next steps, I think that that is a good idea. Your suggestion is good and we could perhaps report on the results of an investigation into this issue in a forthcoming report.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Girard-Bujold.

[English]

Mr. Gruending, followed by Madam Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Smith, I'd like to turn my attention to chapter 9, that on hazardous wastes. As you mentioned, you reported on that in 1997 and are reporting on it again. I might mention that I asked the minister about this a few weeks ago because there was a leak. As a former journalist, I rather enjoy leaks. The minister wasn't able to answer the question because he said it was hypothetical at that time, but I'd like to ask you now since the leak turned out to be true to what you have in your report.

On hazardous wastes you say basically that we don't know what's coming into the country, especially on the illegal side—which people obviously wouldn't tell us about—and we have no real means of enforcing any regulations or prevention of hazardous waste coming into our country, that there's really not a plan. I'd like to ask what may be almost too obvious a question, but I'd like to start here: What hazardous wastes are we talking about, and could you give us a couple of examples?

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Mr. Richard Smith: Yes. The types of things people are talking about are things like sludge, for example. They're the by-products of industrial activity—something that can no longer be used for its original purpose.

A very simple example is if you are using gasoline and it gets contaminated in some way. That becomes a hazardous material, because one litre of gasoline, for example, can make one million litres of water unfit for human consumption.

We are talking about, as I said, the by-products of industrial activity, things that can no longer be used for what they were originally designed.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

When we talk about illegal traffic in hazardous waste now... From some earlier reading I've done, we're talking not only about substances that shouldn't be coming into the country but also about—correct me if I'm wrong—some connection to organized crime. I would like you to describe “illegal traffic” for me.

Mr. Richard Smith: Our office has not looked at the organized crime dimension of this, but what we have looked at are the incentives for illegal activity. We talked about that fairly extensively in our original report.

For example, here are just some of the numbers. These may be a little bit dated, but to deal in a responsible way with a truckload of hazardous waste may cost about $10,000, whereas trucking it somewhere else and just dumping it costs significantly less.

We talked as well about the almost institutional incentives for traffic in hazardous substances, things like how, if you go through the regulatory process to dispose of something properly, it takes time and money to go through that process. We have tended to focus on what incentives are there. Are those incentives real? The answer to that is yes.

We also have focused on whether there is adequate monitoring to be able to come up with some picture of how big the problem is, and the answer to that is no. The Government of Canada did not know that two years ago when we did the original audit; it still doesn't know that.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Do you have any sense from independent sources of information of whether this traffic is increasing, of whether it's a more serious problem than it was in, let's say, 1997?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, we have no independent evidence to be able to come to a judgment on that.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: In the department's response, again, as I asked you in the previous round of questioning, they say that in 1999-2000 they committed “additional resources”. In 2000-01, they “confirmed increases to the ongoing resources”. Can you tell me what they really have done? Have they put more money into this? Is that going to solve the problem?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, I have some numbers that I received from Environment Canada that go directly to that question. Their estimate is that at the time we did the audit in 1997 they had 68 full-time people involved, but this was for all Environment Canada enforcement activities, not just for those at the border. They have told us that they have an action plan that has received new resources. I don't know what the actual numbers are. I think it's a question, Mr. Chairman, that might be better addressed directly to Environment Canada.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Gruending.

Madam Kraft Sloan, please.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The Minister of the Environment has a five-step action plan to reduce smog. I'm just thinking in terms of what you've learned and what we know now in terms of all this work you've completed on this study... I realize that you can't comment on policy and that sort of thing. I appreciate that. I'd love you to do that, but I know you can't. But just knowing what you know now in terms of some of the key elements that make these things successful—things like clear objectives and targets and that sort of thing—I wonder if you would like to comment on the minister's five-step action plan to reduce smog.

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Mr. Richard Smith: Knowing that I might be asked that question, I have rather selfishly avoided looking in detail at the five-point action plan.

A more general comment, though, is that what we've been able to demonstrate, I think, through our reports is that there is a real difference between a plan and concrete action. I think the real challenge that faces Mr. Anderson and the department is taking that plan and turning it into the concrete results that he plans on achieving.

I hope the work we've done—very closely, I must say, with Environment Canada and with Health Canada—will help him do that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Well, you're very clever.

Voices: Oh, oh!

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: As a young woman graduating from university in the early seventies, I purposely learned not to type because I didn't want to find myself only typing for the rest of my life.

Having said that, in the smog chapter on page 4-29, paragraphs 4.101 and 4.102, you bring forward a few somewhat startling bits of information with regard to the science and other knowledge on smog.

You say here that no one knows precisely how the mix of pollutants meets to cause smog or what level of intervention is necessary. Obviously, it makes doing a smog plan or doing actions very difficult. You also go on to say that more information is needed on long-term exposure for health effects, and that while a lot of good health studies have been done, more information is required.

As well, on page 4-42, paragraph 4.158, you state:

    ...new evidence has been unable to identify a level at which the main pollutants in smog—ozone and particulate matter—have no effect on human health.

In these two separate sections we're raising some very important information about the science and where we are with medical research.

I'm wondering if you can tell us who might be doing work within the federal government, which departments, taking a look at these issues, and if any work is being done in looking at vulnerable populations—for example, children.

Mr. Richard Smith: I'll answer that and then I'll ask my colleague, Ellen Shillabeer, who led the study on smog, to give her comments as well.

Who's looking at the smog issue? Mainly Environment Canada and Health Canada. Those are the two agencies within the federal government that have the most direct interest and responsibility for health and environment matters.

Are people looking at the most vulnerable populations? Yes, because we know that the elderly, for example, and children, and people with respiratory and heart diseases are particularly vulnerable to the effects of smog.

Is there a need for better information to guide decision-making? Always. There's always going to be a need for better information to guide decision-making, but I think clearly... and we had this consensus a decade ago. The health consequences of air pollution are well enough understood that we do need to take concrete action on them.

In that sense, it is disappointing to see a decade go by where the commitments that were made, and fairly strong commitments, have not been translated into concrete results.

Ms. Ellen Shillabeer (Principal, Audit Operations, Office of the Auditor General of Canada): I would like to add that the new Canada-wide standards, which hopefully will be approved next month, will obviously move to reduce health effects, but there's a long way to go before they fully protect health. My understanding is that over time Environment Canada intends to ratchet the standards down, get them tighter and tighter, but we have a long way to go before we fully protect health.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So people aren't really jumping up and down for joy, looking at, in the short term, what those standards are suggesting.

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Did your studies look at how these standards would actually protect vulnerable populations, including children? Are they taking into consideration the different ways in which kids interact with the environment—for instance, how they metabolize air differently from adults—in the setting of these standards?

Ms. Ellen Shillabeer: We did not look at the Canada-wide standards process. It was just beginning during our audit. Therefore, I can't comment on that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I think it's important to note that we had an eco-summit on the hill last year, in 1999, looking at airborne pollutants. Our centrepiece statement, which is not that astonishing, is that the science is in. I note that you've used basically the same idea here, that the science is in, that the medical experts and scientists all agree that we have to do something, and it's very frustrating when we see such a lack of action.

I know you've been look at partnerships here, and partnerships are very important, certainly with the provinces and the private sector, but a lot of what I see on this environment committee is that when we engage in the whole partnering process, the environment is left out of the equation.

I often hear from some members on the opposite side of the House, although certainly not the majority of members, that we have to protect industry's interests. Well, it seems to me that perhaps industry's interests have been protected quite sufficiently in a lot of these partnering agreements and processes, and maybe what we have to do is protect the interests of individual Canadians and the health of Canadians first. Certainly it's appalling when we see the 5,000 deaths in 11 major cities resulting from air pollution and smog problems.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

But perhaps you want to comment. I know you've been talking about the elements of a good partnering process, but you know, it has to be that we put the environment and health of Canadians first, as an objective.

Mr. Richard Smith: I won't disagree with that. From my perspective, the issue of partnership is not “whether” but “how”. Given the broad sharing of responsibility—within governments, between governments, with the private and voluntary sector and so on—partnerships are a fact of life in terms of dealing with sustainable development issues. I think we need to recognize that and then focus our attention on how we can make them work well, how we can make them deliver the results for Canadians that they're intended to deliver.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you.

The Chairman: Thank you, Madam Kraft Sloan.

Mr. Smith, let's continue on with this brief interlude on partnerships. In your comments to the committee this morning, you said, under item 11, “Canada's smog plan failed because the partnership that underpinned it did not work.” In the exchange you just had, you seemed to place high hopes on the reliance on partnerships.

Don't you think that perhaps we put too much reliance on partnerships these days, allowing things in the process to drift? No one really has the determination to deliver the objectives originally intended through the partnership. When these objectives seem to fade on the horizon, we all dance around this partnership idol because it has become very fashionable to talk about partnerships. The objective then becomes to retain the partnership rather than to achieve the objective.

This is why I'm a bit worried about your statement under item 11.

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, I think we in large part agree on the issue. My concern is that we need to start thinking about a partnership as a tool rather than as an end in itself.

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I think we have a fairly long history of thinking of a partnership as an end in itself. We have to concentrate, from my perspective, on how we're going to make the partnership work well. In dealing with a large number of issues, smog being a good example, if we're going to deal effectively with that issue, we need to see action within provincial jurisdiction; we need to see action at the federal government level; and we need to see action in industry. Perhaps it's overly pragmatic, but to me the issue is to start talking about how to make these things work better to serve Canadians.

The Chairman: Let's analyse it for a second.

Partnership between government and sectoral interests are a bit odd, so to say. The government, whether it is elected municipally, provincially, or federally, is expected to represent the interests of the total community of the public. When the partnership then involves government plus sectoral interests, in a way, the government abandons the mandate that is given to it by the population in order to accommodate the partnerships. And if the partnership is successful, it means the sectoral interests have prevailed and achieved their goals. If, as in the case of the smog plan, it fails, or doesn't work—as you put it in your presentation—then it means that somehow the societal goals were not met because the sectoral interests found them against their interests.

That raises the question: Why bother to have a partnership?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, the idea behind having a partnership is that it can be potentially a more efficient and effective way of meeting societal objectives.

Let me step back a little bit. I think when we deal with an issue like smog, the federal government very much has to ask itself what the best way is of protecting the health of Canadians. I think that's the fundamental first question. It may well be that entering a partnership is the best way, but they should be doing that type of analysis.

It's what I meant, Mr. Chairman, when I said we have to start thinking of these partnerships as a tool. It's one of many tools that are available to the federal government, and they need to do the type of solid analysis to say this is the best way to go. Should they choose to go down the partnership path, our report has a lot to say about how we can safeguard the public interest, how we can ensure the partnership will deliver the results that Canadians want.

Mr. Chairman, I think that's what we're trying to say in the report.

The Chairman: I'm trying very hard to envisage a partnership between the Government of Canada and the lead-mining industry, for instance. At the time the Government of Canada was attempting to remove lead from gasoline, the lead industry of course was fighting that removal tooth and nail, saying it would be too costly, that the refineries wouldn't accept it, and that in the end, actually, lead was good for human health. There are certain partnerships that are extremely difficult to justify. Would you agree?

Mr. Richard Smith: Mr. Chairman, I agree with you totally that there are circumstances where it makes sense to go down the partnership route, and there are circumstances where there is no choice but for the federal government to act using its broad range of responsibilities.

The Chairman: I have one more question, Mr. Smith, related to the government support for energy investments, a portion of your report that is extremely interesting and valuable.

In appendix A you indicate that the new products related to oil sands could amount to some $20 billion to be spent in central and northern Alberta.

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Scientists there are telling us that the production of oil from sands generates four times the carbon dioxide emissions that are generated when producing oil in other ways—non-oil-sand procedures. The oil-sand procedure is the most polluting of all. I ask you, is that a sustainable tax concession to have in our system?

Mr. Richard Smith: My understanding of the relativity you mentioned is the same—that it is about four times the amount of emissions. Is that sustainable? It makes achieving our climate change targets harder, there's no question about that. It is clearly not being done for good environmental reasons.

The Chairman: Thank you.

We have Madam Kraft Sloan and Madam Girard-Bujold for one question each. Then we'll adjourn.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I think it's important to clarify this issue around partnerships. The reality is that environment is a shared jurisdiction among different levels of government, and we're certainly not going to achieve our objectives if we don't have the private sector, communities, and Canadians involved in the process.

As the chair has pointed out—indeed, I've been sort of troubled through this whole meeting—we look at partnership as the only way to achieve these objectives. Then what do we have to give up? The partner has to be receptive to the common goal, and if the partner isn't, all kinds of barriers are put in the way. We do all these silly little things and make all these rhetorical statements to make it look as though we've achieved a particular agreement, when we're just mucking around with paper and words. We're not achieving anything, in terms of nature's account balance. I think that's really important to clarify.

Some of the elements you have identified as necessary—the involvement of the public, the transparency of information, timetables, monitoring, and reporting back—are all very important, because they are certainly missing in many of the partnerships we see.

Am I understanding what you're trying to get across here?

Mr. Richard Smith: Exactly.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask several other questions.

Earlier we talked about biosafety. However, Canada did not sign the protocol last week in Kenya. You know that it is important to move ahead on this issue.

You also referred to biotechnology in your report. You said that it is important that the government tell Canadians where it intends to go and what progress has been made. What do you mean by that?

In 6.46, you state:

    ... Parliament and other Canadians need to know what the government plans to do with respect to biotechnology...

And you add:

    Departments [...] should develop the promised concrete action plans for the strategic goals, including specific measurable objectives.

This is found in your report, in Chapter 6.

Mr. Richard Smith: When the government announced the Biotechnology Strategy, it stated that it would be announcing the details of the strategy. This announcement has not been made as of yet.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Thank you. That is all, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: We should always give the final word to Ms. Girard-Bujold so that she can conclude with a very interesting question.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: That's to get your co-operation.

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The Chairman: That concludes the questions.

I would like to thank you, Mr. Smith and your colleague.

[English]

We will devote time and effort to studying and understanding your report, which certainly gives tremendous food for thought to parliamentarians. We urge you to keep up the fine work you are doing. We look forward to your report next year, particularly on the portion that will deal with climate change.

Mr. Richard Smith: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My staff and I are very happy to continue to serve the committee.

The Chairman: This meeting now stands adjourned.