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ENVI Committee Meeting

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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, September 26, 2000

• 1944


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.)): I'd like to call our meeting to order.

I'd like to welcome everyone here tonight, our committee members and our witnesses.

• 1945

Just before we get started, I want to clarify the process we're going to be using tonight. This is a special meeting of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Last Thursday the committee passed two motions. The first was that the committee urge the Minister of the Environment to consider carrying out a full environmental assessment into the Adams Mine landfill proposal. The second motion was that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development hold a public meeting with witnesses before September 29, 2000, regarding the major landfill project at Adams Mine in the Timiskaming area of Ontario.

I just want to reiterate that this session tonight is an information session. It's an opportunity for members of Parliament to hear witnesses on both sides of the issue so that we can become better aware of the issue. I must say that's one of the most wonderful things about the parliamentary process and democracy. As members of the Canadian Parliament, we have this opportunity to call witnesses before standing committees so that we can express the will of not only our constituents but also the people of Canada.

The issue before us tonight is one that has provoked very strong feelings on both sides. I would like to remind members—and I'm talking to committee members right now—that this is an opportunity for you to hear the facts and to learn something about the issue itself. So I would urge members not to spend a lot of time making political speeches about the particular issue. I would encourage you to ask questions of the witnesses. I'm going to be letting you know the rules and timing of those interventions tonight, and I'm going to be very tough about enforcing them. Our good clerk has brought in a timer, so we'll be very careful about our timing.

• 1950

I would like to say that with our first panel the witnesses will have five minutes to make their presentation, and the members of the committee will have five minutes. We will only do one round of questions. As is our normal course, we will hear questions from the opposition first. So we will hear one from each opposition party—the Reform, the Bloc, the NDP, and the Progressive Conservatives. Then we will take four questions, if there are four, or three questions, as the Liberal members arrive, from the government side. Then we will go back to one question from the opposition and one question from the government. There will be, as I said, only one round tonight. The five minutes that you as members have for your questions will include responses from the witnesses. I hope we will use this opportunity to allow the witnesses to give their responses to your particular question.

I would like to introduce Paul Bernier, who is with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Mr. Bernier will be sitting on all of the panels tonight. I take my hat off to you; you're going to have a long evening. He is here as a resource so that members can ask him questions about the Environmental Assessment Act and the agency with regard to this particular project.

I would like to introduce the witnesses on the first panel. I'm going to ask members and witnesses to look at the agenda, because we're going to follow that particular order. We have, from the Township of Harris, Martin Auger; from the Regional County Municipality of Témiscamingue, Quebec, Fidel Baril; from the City of Toronto, Councillor Saundercook, and I believe you will also invite Michael Garrett, who's your chief administrative officer, to share your five minutes; and from the Township of Larder Lake, Ontario, Joanne Thompson, who is the reeve.

I welcome all of you. It's my understanding that we're starting with the Township of Harris.

Mr. Martin Auger (Reeve, Township of Harris): Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to address this session. My name is Martin Auger, and I'm here on behalf of 19 municipalities of Timiskaming.

What I would like to enlighten you on is the controversy around the term “willing host”—what is or is not a “willing host”. Boston Township, where the Adams Mine is located, happens to be an unincorporated township. This means that this township is administered by the province. Therefore, they do not have the jurisdiction to be a willing host.

An Oracle poll on the Adams Mine project prepared for David Ramsay, MPP for Timiskaming—Cochrane, clearly indicates that in the northern section of Timiskaming, which is Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake, and Englehart, 62% of respondents to the poll were opposed to the Adams Mine proposal. It must also be noted that in the 1997 Kirkland Lake municipal elections, Dr. Richard Denton, who ran for mayor on an anti-Adams Mine platform, won handily over his opponents. At the present time there is a full anti-Adams Mine slate running for this fall's municipal election.

The citizens of Larder Lake have recently signed a petition in which the people contacted were very much against the Adams Mine proposal. Approximately five years ago a poll taken in Larder Lake showed that 95% of the respondents were against the proposal, and Larder Lake will also see a full anti-Adams Mine slate running for the next municipal election.

• 1955

A mini-referendum conducted by Reverend Shute of Englehart a few weeks ago shows that of those who responded, 95% were against the Adams Mine proposal. In the southern areas of Timiskaming, results of the Oracle poll showed that 86% of respondents were in opposition to the project. Petitions presently being circulated in varying parts of Timiskaming thus far indicate a 95% or more opposition to the Adams Mine project. Are we to ignore these numbers and assume that Timiskaming is a willing host? Certainly not.

The real issue is that the Adams Mine decision should be a district initiative, made up of a majority of the 26 municipalities and of the 100 or more unorganized municipalities, because in a real democracy the wishes of three councils who remain deaf to the concern of their own ratepayers should not be the deciding factor.

For the record, it is important to note that of the three so-called willing host municipalities who represent, at best, one-third of the population of Timiskaming and who will benefit from royalties that carry no responsibility toward their neighbours, two of these municipalities are upstream from the dump project. There would be no danger to their aquifer.

Timiskaming is made up of forests, lakes, hunting, fishing, farming, small manufacturing, service industries, forestry, tourism, mining, winter tourism, and Euro-tourism, and in many cases all these are closely interrelated. To endanger one or more of the above is to threaten the fragile fabric of Timiskaming's economy. Do we want to support any proposal that may prove detrimental to our farm community? In an attempt to create a few jobs, do we want to risk losing all or part of a booming agricultural economy that has been a century in the making?

How do I explain to my children and grandchildren that even though thousands of tonnes of household toxic materials will be brought in yearly, treated through a process that is still unproven...? How can I tell my grandchildren that they have nothing to worry about?

For the most part in Timiskaming, even though we often complain about weather, etc., we enjoy a quality of life that we would not change for the world, and we must pass this quality of life on to our children and grandchildren. The quality of life must not be jeopardized by a project that is not wanted or accepted by the majority of the people of Timiskaming, a project that we don't think is safe enough to risk the future—our future and the future of the coming generations.

We must keep in mind that any ill effects this megaproject may have will impact all who live in the Blanche River and Lake Timiskaming watershed. This includes as well our neighbours from the province of Quebec and our friends from the Algonquin First Nation. It gives me great pride that I join with them in requesting a federal environmental assessment. Our joint basic rights as Canadians must be protected.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Auger.

Our next witness will be from the Regional Municipality of Témiscamingue, Fidel Baril.


Mr. Fidel Baril (Mayor of Notre-Dame-du-Nord and Acting Reeve of the Regional County Municipality of Témiscamingue): Madam Chair, we want to thank you for this opportunity to voice the concerns and wishes of our population about the proposed dumping of waste by the City of Toronto in the Adams Mine near Kirkland Lake in Ontario.

We have already sent the committee clerk a full version of our submission or, if you prefer, our brief. We have also prepared a list of supporters of our position and we will shortly be able to provide copies of many letters, petitions, etc. on this subject.

Our people are unanimous! The Adams Mine project is disturbing and unacceptable. The following is the official position of the Regional County Municipality of Témiscamingue, the 21 municipalities that compose it and the 18,027 people who live there.

    The proposed landfill site for the City of Toronto in the Adams Mine near Kirland Lake potentially threatens our environment, our economy and our quality of life, for the current population and for generations to come.

    The people are angry and worried about this mega-garbage dump which will be of unprecedented size and run according to procedures found nowhere else in the world! The site is a former open-pit iron mine which has been fissured tremendously as a result of 25 years of intensive blasting. The resulting crater is huge, with a depth of approximately 600 feet and filled with water to about 340 feet. Garbage from the Toronto region will be transported to it by train to the tune of one million metric tons of garbage per year, for over 20 years. There will be 85 railcars moving a day, seven days a week.

• 2000

    The operating model includes a pumping system for the treatment of 300 million litres of waste water a year for 100 years. Neighbouring bodies of water (rivière Blanche) drain into Lake Témiscamingue, which is 75 kilometres from the site.

    The governments of Quebec and Canada must carry out their own expert review because the project, although located in Ontario, could cause negative environmental and socio-economic effects for Quebec in general and the Témiscamingue region in particular.

    - given the circumstances, we oppose the plan to use the Adams Mine as a dump site;

    - we call on the City of Toronto and on the regions of Peel, York and Durham to abandon the idea of using the Adams Mine to manage their waste;

    - we call on the governments of Canada and Quebec to make sure that the project is put on hold while they carry out serious and exhaustive environmental impact studies in accordance with the provisions of 46(1) et seq of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, in the interest of current and future generations.

In reading our brief, you will see that the Témiscamingue region is a natural environment whose economy is based on resources that we want to keep unspoiled for future generations.

Thank you.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Our next witnesses are Bill Saundercook and Mr. Garrett, from the City of Toronto.

Mr. Bill Saundercook (Councillor, York Humber; Chair, Works Committee, City of Toronto): Thank you, Madam Chair and members of Parliament. We're very pleased to be here on relatively short notice.

I have with me today the chief administrative officer for the city, Mr. Garrett. I will turn it over to him very shortly to present some facts the city has been dealing with over the last quite lengthy period of time. Also in the audience we have the general manager of waste management, Mr. Bacopoulos, who is here to answer any questions, if necessary, as well as a project manager and consultant hydrologist who's also an expert witness, if need be, Madam Chair.

I just want to say very quickly that I'm a resource from the political realm of this situation as the chair of the works committee. Now I'd like Mr. Garrett to please give you some facts.

Mr. Michael Garrett (Chief Administrative Officer, City of Toronto): Thank you, Councillor Saundercook.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Garrett, we have had your position read into the evidence of the meeting. That's fine. Your name is not on the official witness list, so I just wanted to make sure that was correct.

Mr. Michael Garrett: Is it okay to proceed?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes.

Mr. Michael Garrett: The Adams Mine landfill site was a proposal that was made as part of an integrated solution to Toronto's long-term waste management strategy from a group of proponents. The city went to a request for proposals to seek out what was the best price and the best long-term environmental solution to the city's waste disposal problems.

The Adams Mine site is but one component of the city's strategy. The city has a proposal to use disposal sites in the United States for its industrial commercial waste, but it wants to use the Adams Mine site for municipal waste from the city of Toronto and also from the regions of York and Durham and possibly other regions in the greater Toronto area.

The advantage of the tender from the Adams Mine people, RCN, is that it doesn't have any put-or-pay clause in it. We feel that in the business of waste management, in the future recycling and diversion innovations are going to be considerable, and that in fact the amount of waste that is going to have to go to disposal will likely decrease. So the importance of having a contract that allows us to reduce the tonnage and not pay a penalty is an important part of the Rail Cycle North proposal. It's the only one of all those who tendered for our waste disposal solution that provided that important element.

The city, as you may know, has a commitment to divert about 50% of its waste by 2006, and in that regard we are pursuing very actively innovative solutions that will allow us to divert organics and other parts of the waste stream so that we don't have to send it to a disposal facility. So the ability to reduce the reliance on having to pay a penalty for the disposal of our waste is a significantly attractive feature of the tender that has gone forward.

• 2005

I know the main issue that's in front of you today is really about the Adams Mine site itself, and I know that time is limited. We have some experts here, and if there's another opportunity, we can answer those questions.

You understand that it's not a City of Toronto facility. It's something we tendered for. A third party owns the site and has a provided a site that has undergone a full environmental assessment hearing that evaluates the environmental suitability of the design. All the experts that have given an opinion on the solution have said that it is safe. It has undergone a complete and full technical assessment by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment staff and has been fully approved by the Ontario government. You will recall that the environmental assessment systems that the federal government has and the Province of Ontario has are harmonized, because we meet the same standards.

So the proponent has consulted actively with the federal government for some time as the environmental assessment process went on with the Department of Environment, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Department of Transport. They are satisfied with the fact that this site can be safe. So all of that has been underway for a couple of years, and it has been determined that the site can be safe.

If I might, Madam Chair, the analogy is that if you took an empty bucket and put pinpricks in it and then immersed it in a bathtub, what happens with the Adams Mine site is that the water would flow into that container, and then it will be pumped into a sewage treatment facility, a leachate treatment facility, and be cleaned up before it is discharged. So there is no way the contents of the Adams Mine site can in fact leak back into the aquifers. The pressure of the aquifer keeps the water flowing in. As long as the elevation is lower than the surrounding water table, that's the only way it can happen.

So the best minds in the business have examined this and have said that it's safe. The federal government has been part of that. The Ministry of the Environment for Ontario has been part of it, and they have said that this is a satisfactory solution.

In conclusion, there is a lot of urgency on this matter, Madam Chair. This has been under discussion for many years. We are now only 18 months from not having any capacity left. A decision has to be taken in that 18 months to get a contractor busy preparing a site, and on our timetable a decision has to be taken on this very soon. In fact, the contractors' prices that we have in these tenders expire on December 15.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Mr. Garrett.

Now, from the Township of Larder Lake, Joanne Thompson, the reeve.

Ms. Joanne Thompson (Reeve, Township of Larder Lake, Ontario): Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm Joanne Thompson, the reeve of Larder Lake. I'm here today also speaking on behalf of the councils of Kirkland Lake and the Town of Englehart and all of the municipalities who have supported the development of the Adams Mine landfill since 1990. I am here today to address the issue before this committee, specifically the call for federal involvement in the approval process of the Adams Mine landfill. I'm not here to talk about willing hosts or referendums. These issues are not before this committee and are irrelevant to the call for a federal EA.

I am here to object to any federal EA at this time. I am also here to state clearly that our municipalities and our residents have been fully involved in the approval process and are satisfied with its transparency and fairness. The public had full disclosure of all technical studies and reports. The residents had access to independent peer review advice from Gartner Lee Associates over a five-year period. The process included over ten open houses for the residents where all aspects of the landfill were explained and discussed. The Province of Ontario held public hearings in Kirkland Lake before the site was approved.

On the issue of a full hearing, our municipality, after being involved over the five years, is completely satisfied that a full environmental study on the site was completed. The public hearings addressed the key issue of groundwater contamination, and that was what the residents wanted.

We are wondering why the call for a federal EA. Our understanding is that Environment Canada was part of the study evaluation. They must have been satisfied, or the project would not have got to the approval stage.

• 2010

Where were the natives over the last thirty years when the traditional mining exercises raped the land and the environment with the traditional mining? We're wondering what and whose political agenda this is falling into right now.

I attended most meetings, open houses, PLC meetings in Timiskaming, and had never seen much of our political representations. The rhetoric that is happening, the threats of violence, and the political blackmail to our communities is abhorrent to me.

I can't say it strongly enough: we are completely satisfied that this project is safe. I say that because we have been involved in all aspects of all the meetings and the hearings. Much of the historical anti-dump rhetoric coming from the opponents of the project, most of whom live at least fifty kilometres away, is getting to be silly. Suddenly the Adams Mine is being described by people who should know better as a pristine lake.

The Adams Mine landfill represents an opportunity for our region. It is an economic opportunity, but it is also an environmental opportunity. The Adams Mine landfill will provide all of northeastern Ontario with better and safer landfill capacity than we have now.

The federal government and our liberal MP have provided part of $70,000 for our waste opportunities resource committee and Northern College to develop an ecotourism centre at the Adams Mine site. He thought it was a good idea. We don't know what's happening now. Is it an election that's in the air or what? I have a plan, by the way, the ecotourism brochure from Northern College, to distribute to the committee members.

In conclusion, if the interference of the federal government causes Toronto not to use the Adams Mine, our municipalities are the losers. We will lose new jobs, we will lose new investment, and we will lose an opportunity to be part of a world-class waste management system.

I have to reiterate that this is a safe project. It has met and exceeded the environmental assessment process of Ontario. As a representative of the host communities, we are satisfied.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Ms. Thompson.

At the beginning of the session I had outlined the rules of procedure for the members around the committee, and I know they're going to fully abide by those rules, but I guess I hadn't said anything to the witnesses. I would like to remind the witnesses that what you say before our parliamentary standing committee is protected. However, I would ask that you use some discretion, and exercise some choice of language when you give your presentation.

I would like to start off questioning with Mr. Reynolds, followed by Monsieur Brien, Mr. Gruending, and Mr. Herron. Thank you.

Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Mr. Bernier, one of the comments made here said the federal government must have been satisfied on the project or it wouldn't be going ahead. What involvement has the federal government had on this project so far?

Mr. Martin Auger: Are you asking me this?

Mr. John Reynolds: No, I'm asking Mr. Bernier. I'm wondering if the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency authorities have had any involvement in this project so far.

Mr. Paul Bernier (Vice-President, Program Delivery Sector, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency): The involvement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is very recent. I can describe to you what the agency is currently doing. In fact I have prepared a brief on the understanding that in fact I might have been a witness rather than a resource person, and that brief is with the committee clerk in French and in English. It explains very clearly the current situation of the agency's involvement pursuant to the potential application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Therefore the involvement of the agency is very recent. It stems from the receipt by the Minister of the Environment of a petition from the Timiskaming First Nation. The agency is reviewing that petition in light of the transboundary provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. My brief describes what that entails.

• 2015

I can point out that we are giving high priority to the investigation that is required. That deals with both the legal applicability of the act, potentially, and the technical aspects that relate to the science involved. With respect to the latter, we are engaging the assistance of Environment Canada, who were earlier involved with the provincial review—they were a participant in that—and also involving Natural Resources Canada.

Mr. John Reynolds: Does the minister have the power to order an assessment?

Mr. Paul Bernier: That is the matter the minister has asked the agency to investigate, whether he has a legal authority. If he does, then what is important to understand is that the powers under the transboundary provisions of the act are different from those elsewhere in the act. They deal strictly with the.... If there is a conclusion by the minister that there are significant adverse environmental effects, he may call for a review panel. And if that scenario does unfold, it would be in relation to those transboundary adverse environmental effects, and not in relation to all environmental effects, as would be the case with a regular environmental assessment under this piece of legislation.

Mr. John Reynolds: In your opinion, it would seem the Ontario government, through their environmental assessment authority, has done an assessment and said this project is okay. Would you, at this level, find yourself differing with them very often? After it has gone through a provincial assessment authority, would you find yourself maybe questioning their methods that they have used in deciding that this project should go ahead?

Mr. Paul Bernier: I can't answer that question in the abstract. What I can say, though, is that the investigation that we will be doing with the assistance of Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada will take into account the work done by the province. And what is important as well is that we then look at information that has been brought forward by the petitioner, the Timiskaming First Nation.

The question to the scientists will be, “In light of this other information you have now received, are the conclusions that you reached earlier, when you participated in the provincial review, any different?”

Mr. John Reynolds: If everything has been done in Ontario, is there anything to stop them from legally moving forward tomorrow on this project?

Mr. Paul Bernier: Tomorrow? No.

Mr. John Reynolds: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Monsieur Brien.


Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): My first question is for the people representing the City of Toronto. You stated that you chose this solution because it would enable you to reduce the volume of waste that you are going to send, thereby enabling you to keep the option to recycle in the future.

You said that this was the best solution for you because it enabled you to reduce the tonnage for disposal.

If that is the case, why was this not your first choice, because in June, you chose another site...


Mr. Michael Garrett: The question was why is this our first choice, and last June there was a different choice in terms of the preference.

The original staff recommendation to council involved extending the use of the Keele Valley landfill site. We subsequently—and I think that's what you are referring to—as part of the solution to allow some further time to extend the capacity of Keele Valley so that we could make better use of the existing site.... The province wrote us back. The premier in fact wrote back and said that was not permissible, and that the province would not allow that. Council decided not to pursue that option, and went back out to tender for the options for alternative sites, and did so and came back with these other five alternative disposal facilities.

• 2020

It's those sites that were evaluated and seemed to be all environmentally safe. Not all had very great capacity, and that was one of the issues, because we have about 1.8 million tonnes per year that we have to deal with, ergo the recommendation that gave us some flexibility for future recycling.


Mr. Pierre Brien: I have a brief but technical question. Is it true that the contract stipulates that you will be receiving a volume discount of $1.50 per ton more than was agreed to originally if you supplied more waste than what was anticipated?


Mr. Michael Garrett: I can't answer that. I don't know the answer to that. You'll have to ask Rail Cycle North that question. I understand they're making a deposition here, and that question is better asked of them. We're certainly not paying any royalty as a city. We tendered as a normal tendering process and took the lowest proper bid.

Mr. Pierre Brien: I have here a document, and I will read it:

    The draft agreement includes a royalty in the amount of $1.50 per tonne to be paid by RCN to the City of Toronto for every tonne of waste delivered in excess of 13 million tonnes over the first 10 years.

Is it part of the contract?

Mr. Michael Garrett: I can't answer that question specifically; we have some staff who probably could. Do you want me to bring them up, Madam Chair?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes.

Could you come to the table, please? And whoever comes to the table, could you give us your name and position, please?

We'll add another couple of minutes on here, Mr. Brien.

Mr. Michael Garrett: This is our general manager of waste management, Angelos Bacopoulos.

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos (General Manager, Solid Waste Management, Works and Emergency Services, City of Toronto): Good evening.

Yes, in regard to that question, that is part of the contract that's proposed. Basically, it is a royalty for any tonnage that we put into the site that exceeds the number that you stated, over a ten-year period. That royalty would go back to the users of the landfill site. In this case, it would be the City of Toronto and any of its GTA brethren who are using that site.


Mr. Pierre Brien: Is that going to motivate you to do more recycling?


Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: Certainly that $1.50, if it came back to the corporation, would be applied to diversion programs.


Mr. Pierre Brien: You're going to pay less money and you're going to... No, that's all right. That concludes the first round.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gruending, please.

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

Madam Chair, I think, in the interest of context, it would be worth it for our guests to know that it was at a meeting last week where we voted that such a meeting as the one tonight would occur. The vote was 8 to 7, with all but one of the liberal members voting against. I'm not sure where they are this evening; they're probably otherwise engaged. I would hope they would be here to hear from you, because this is an important issue.

Mr. Saundercook, are there not alternatives to using the Adams Mine? We were told, and you've just mentioned in response to a question, that this was not the alternative preferred last June by the city itself. If I understand, you were using some existing sites, which could be used for a while yet, and also you could send some of this material to Michigan. Aren't there any alternatives that would be less disruptive than those we're considering here?

Mr. Bill Saundercook: Madam Chair, I would begin by saying that the process, as outlined by our CAO a moment ago, was that we looked for a shorter-term solution with the landfill that's owned by the city in the neighbouring region of York. That was not made available to us. The premier wrote a letter basically saying that.

The other options in Ontario that made our final list—one was in London, one was in Windsor—were both very small landfills that could take 100,000 at one and 125,000 at the other. Those two were in the first round, in combination with Adams Mine. Then in the second round, those two players were switched with a Michigan landfill, referred to as Republic.

• 2025

I think I'll turn it over to Mr. Bacopoulos, if there's anything else to add at this time.

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: That solution we first put forward was a short-term solution, and it was also the most financially prudent solution at the time, because using our own landfill site would have been much cheaper than any of the alternatives that have been put forward. That's why staff at the time, in considering all the aspects, not only the environmental aspects but also the financial aspects, decided that was by far the best solution for the city economically.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: I'm curious to know, then, if you put forward in June a certain proposal that your people thought was best, if you have any idea why the premier turned it down.

Mr. Bill Saundercook: Madam Chair, I understand that the closing date of the end of 2002—Mr. Bacopoulos will correct me if I'm wrong—was determined by the amounts of waste we were sending to that landfill. Based on that amount sent on a daily basis, a date of closure was projected at the end of 2002.

We asked if it would be possible to go to a slow fill option and thereby send more waste to Michigan state, possibly, and continue to go on a slow fill mode beyond the 2002 date, possibly to 2005, which would help us deal with our problem, and that was not on the table.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: You don't know why? Okay.

Mr. Bernier, I have a question to you. It seems that a committee of parliamentarians is the group of people who are pushing for an environmental assessment, which is a little bit odd. This project, as far as I can see, poses a significant level of risk to water supplies across provincial boundaries, as we've heard. There are different economic zones: farming; forestry; tourism; first nations, we've heard. I'm wondering if this process hasn't broken down. I'm wondering, when we have a leachate, an identified deleterious substance, if the alarm bells wouldn't go off and this would trigger automatically.

I guess I'm wondering why we're here tonight and why the process isn't going on already.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): A short response, Mr. Bernier, please.

Mr. Paul Bernier: Thank you, Mr. Gruending.

As was indicated earlier, there was a participation by Environment Canada in the provincial assessment that occurred, and the reason for our involvement now—I'm referring to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency—is with respect to the potential of transboundary environmental effects that may be deemed significant. We have been invited into the process at this time as a result of a petition, which the minister is obliged to review, and he has asked us for our advice with respect to that petition.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Just a quick response.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: How long will that take?

Mr. Paul Bernier: We just received the information a short while ago and we are in the process of sharing it with expert departments at the same time as we're doing our legal analysis. All I can say at this juncture is, having just initiated a process, it will be more than a matter of days.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Herron, please.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to pick up very briefly on Dennis' questions.

We are here because of a motion that was passed by this particular committee, and to be fair, there were representations from all government sides. Primarily it's an issue driven by the opposition, where we have the Alliance, the Bloc, the New Democrats, and the Conservatives on the same page, where we might say this should be actually looked at. Also, the member from York North stepped forward to help our motion pass in that regard.

I guess what I'm saying with that illustration is that there's enough attention, enough critical mass, which is somewhat unprecedented here at this committee in the last three and a half years, to warrant an intervention of this sort.

My first question is to Mr. Bernier. When did CEAA come on board? You said it was only recently. Could you give me the exact date?

• 2030

Mr. Paul Bernier: Timiskaming First Nation, I believe, submitted documentation to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in March or April of this year. It was not until some months later that we became more acquainted with this and considered that even though it was directed to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, we could construe that letter, since it was copied to our minister, as a potential petition to our minister. So it was only, I think, in August that that engaged the agency itself.

Mr. John Herron: You said that Environment Canada was involved initially, from ground zero, that they had started in conjunction with the provincial government. I trust you would have reviewed Environment Canada's documents and that they would have flagged any concerns or any commentary with some paperwork in some form. Have you reviewed that?

Mr. Paul Bernier: No, that is not the case. The Environmental Assessment Act applies to between 5,000 and 6,000 projects a year—

Mr. John Herron: I was referring to the issue.... You said Environment Canada was involved with the province when they were doing their assessment. I trust they would have a record of that; otherwise you may not even know it had happened, right?

Mr. Paul Bernier: I trust you understand that I do not represent Environment Canada. I'm with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Mr. John Herron: No, but one of the first places you might to ask what did the federal government say about this issue when they were working in conjunction with their provincial partner at the time?

Mr. Paul Bernier: That is precisely the question that is now being asked by the agency to Environment Canada in relation to what the agency is doing.

Mr. John Herron: So you have never reviewed that paperwork to date?

Mr. Paul Bernier: We have not, and we have had no reason to, because the federal Environmental Assessment Act has not been triggered, was not triggered at the time Environment Canada participated in the provincial review, and still has not been triggered.

Mr. John Herron: But there's no harm in just checking it out and asking what they said at the time. Wouldn't that be a natural, knee-jerk reaction that people would do, or is it...?

Mr. Paul Bernier: No, it wouldn't, and that's what I was attempting to explain when I first answered. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 assessments done federally every year, and the agency does not review all of the information that is reviewed by all of those 25 to 30 departments that have to apply the federal Environmental Assessment Act. It is a regime of self-evaluation.

Mr. John Herron: If you were to do, say, an environmental assessment on this, what kind of timeframe—a ballpark, your best guesstimate—would it take to actually perform that in a comprehensive way?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Herron.

Can you give us a response, please?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The only way in which a federal environmental assessment might occur in relation to the proposal we have before us is in relation to the transboundary provisions of the act, and that would mean the minister would have to conclude first that, yes, this requires an assessment at the level of a review panel, which is the most rigorous level of assessment.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

On the government side, Mrs. Redman.

Mr. John Herron: What about length of time?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'm sorry, I thought you had finished your response.

Mr. Paul Bernier: Under the guidelines that currently exist for federal review panels, there is reference to a period of approximately 13 months for something that has never been looked at before and that is absent of the time needed by the proponent to prepare the environmental impact statement required by a panel.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

On the government side, we have Mrs. Redman, Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Pratt.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.

Clearly one of the issues at hand in what we're really looking at, whether or not this legislation is triggered, is the transboundary aspect or the aboriginal issue, and I believe those are the basis of the two petitions that prompted the minister to request the agency to get involved. When Environment Canada was previously looking at that, did they comment on these two issues?

• 2035

Mr. Paul Bernier: The participation by Environment Canada in the provincial assessment, I confess, I have not had a chance to review, so I am not able to answer with any degree of knowledge whether the effects at some distance from the mine site were reviewed. But I would certainly assume that the effects within close proximity would have been.

Mrs. Karen Redman: I realize you're with the assessment agency, but will Environment Canada comment on transboundary or aboriginal issues now that additional information has been received?

Mr. Paul Bernier: Yes. The process now is that we are inviting them to review the new information that has been submitted by the Timiskaming First Nation. We understand there may be a second petition, in fact; it hadn't been officially received as of a few hours ago. We will ask them, in any event, to look at new information, bearing in mind the information that was available through the provincial assessment, and ask them and Natural Resources Canada as well to indicate to us whether, in light of this new information, the conclusions would be any different from those reached earlier.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Would any other government departments be involved in this? I guess I'm trying to frame how complex this kind of investigation really is, and how far-reaching.

Mr. Paul Bernier: We are assuming for the moment that those two departments I mentioned are the only ones that will need to be consulted by us in relation to the information we've received. The Department of the Environment actually is responsible for certain provisions under the Fisheries Act dealing with deleterious substances put into water bodies, so that brings in some fisheries-related responsibility under the Fisheries Act. For the moment, that's what we assume will be adequate.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Madame Redman.

Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Madam Chair, I'm sorry to take a bit of time for something that is not exactly relevant, but I feel I must.

I was extremely disappointed to hear Mr. Gruending's remarks. First of all, for the record, if he would refer back to the record of the meeting the last time, there was a discussion among us that if we preceded your motion of a hearing with one asking the minister to consider an environmental assessment, then it was our understanding that the second motion would fall by the wayside. It was on this basis that the majority of members of the Liberal Party voted against it, including me. This is the way I understood it. So if there was a misunderstanding, it wasn't mine; it was certainly the way the majority of us understood it here. And I must admit our colleague from York North perceived it differently.

Secondly, it's not fair to refer to the absence of our members here. There's a caucus tonight; in fact, three members have missed the caucus to attend tonight. The CEAA minister is appearing before the caucus of the GTA, and this is why the members couldn't appear tonight. I don't think it is fair to bring politics into this thing. For somebody who is usually extremely fair, Mr. Gruending...I was very disappointed.

Also, the same remarks would apply to Mr. Herron. I don't think it was the purpose tonight to bring little politics into this thing.

I wanted to ask the members from Toronto this. When I was Minister of the Environment in Quebec, I always took the tack that garbage belongs to the home ground, that we shouldn't impose our garbage on somebody else. I wanted to ask you, just as a matter of philosophy, do you think it would be fair if tomorrow Windsor sent its garbage to Toronto or Timiskaming sent its garbage to Toronto? What would you say? Would you accept it gladly?

Mr. Bill Saundercook: I believe the short answer would be that if we had space to take it, yes. If Keele Valley did not expand its neighbours to allow the residential development to occur right to the perimeter of the landfill, we could probably continue to landfill there for ten more years. And yes, we may even be in a situation to take neighbours' waste, as we were doing there. We are taking neighbours' waste today, and will until the closure of that Keele Valley.

So the short answer is yes, we would.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Well, what I've found out is that it's very convenient to send your waste to somebody else who doesn't want it.

I've heard this business of watertight...the guarantees on landfills. I had a landfill in my riding when I was in the provincial government and it was supposed to be guaranteed non-leachate, completely watertight. We lived a nightmare with this thing. I've seen many of them that don't leach and produce this problem.

• 2040

It comes back to the provincial assessment, which was supposed to be so thorough. Is it true that the provincial assessment had a time limit for the hearings of just 15 days?

Mr. Bill Saundercook: I'll ask one of the staff to answer that question. Before that, I'd like to say that it is my understanding that the Keele Valley landfill site is a showcase operation, state of the art, and I suspect it was guided by the rules and regulations of the minister of the environment for the province.

As far as the time restrictions on it are concerned, I'll have to pass it over to Mr. Bacopoulos to answer that question. I'm not aware of that.

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: Sir, in terms of the number of days, the hearing was scoped on the key issues: on the safety of the site and the safety of the containment process that was being proposed. I believe all the time that was required to study that particular issue was given to each of those who were in opposition.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Can you be specific? Was it 15 days?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: Again, it's very difficult for me to speak to it because we were not involved, but the proponent is here and he can answer that question.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: All right. Well, if you can let me know if it was 15 days....

Two, you said it was very specific on the safety. What about the environmental issues? What about the social issues? What about the population issues? What about the ecosystemic issues? Were they studied?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: Again, these were all studies that were conducted. I think the more appropriate person to speak to those is Mr. McGuinty, who will be on one of the future panels here.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: All right. I'll ask you one last question. I understand that the result of the environmental assessment, first of all, was a split panel, two to one. There was a second assessment, which again led to a lot of doubt in the minds...but the approval arrived all the same from the provincial government.

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: I think, sir, we have to understand that the people who were on the panel were not people with a scientific background. They were ordinary people who listened to the arguments and made up their minds based on the arguments that were put forward and in hearing from expert witnesses on the case. They voted two to one in favour of what was being put before them. As such, that was their judgment. But they were not scientific people making this decision. They were hearing from scientific experts in order to—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: What I wanted to bring out is that this assessment produced a split result in the first place. It returned for a review, the government approved it, and there was a 15-day hearing. When I hear that there was a fantastic assessment on the part of Ontario, let me tell you, I remain very skeptical, because I've been through a lot of assessments. Mr. Bernier even mentioned that for some federal assessments a panel might take 13 months. So 15 days is certainly not very complete, in my mind.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Bacopoulos, would you care to respond?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: A full EA was done. It was reviewed by the Ministry of the Environment and approved by the ministry as well. More details can be provided by Mr. McGuinty, but certainly from our due diligence review of what was done, we were satisfied that an appropriate examination of the site was done.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Pratt.

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

I think it's becoming clear that some of the questions that members of Parliament have around the table here might be better addressed by Ontario provincial environmental authorities, and perhaps there would be some wisdom at some point in having those people come before the committee.

My question—and perhaps Mr. Bernier might be able to answer it, and I don't know, maybe the representatives from the City of Toronto might be able to answer it—concerns the technology being used on this particular site. My background is in municipal government. I served at the RMOC, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, for six years and three years with the City of Nepean. I have a landfill in my riding as well, the Trail Road landfill site. When we went to expand that site a number of years ago, we had to have a very carefully constructed bottom liner, a gas collection system, a leachate pumping system, and a top cap when the life of the landfill had expired. I don't see any of that in terms of this proposal.

• 2045

Again from my experience in municipal government, I've seen situations where water tables that were stable at one time became unstable for God knows what reasons, and the situation was not the same as it had been. Based on your knowledge of the situation, why is there a different standard for eastern and perhaps southern Ontario from what there is for northern Ontario? Can anyone here answer that question?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: I will attempt to do that, sir.

The technology that's being used here is one that is different from the traditional landfill technologies you're aware of. We run a landfill site in the city of Vaughan with a clay liner and the same types of control systems as you described for the Trail Road landfill site in Ottawa. But this is a different technology, in the sense that you do not want to impede the flow of water into the site. By putting some sort of clay barrier or synthetic barrier around the site, you would prohibit water from coming into the site, and the whole theory behind how the leachate and the contaminants will be controlled within the landfill is by an inward flow of water. So you encourage the inward flow of water. You maintain a significant difference between the level of water within the landfill and the surrounding area, and you will continue to have an inflow and no contaminants flowing from the site.

Mr. David Pratt: I realize that there is a different system. My question is, why is there not a standard approach right across the province to ensure a higher level of environmental protection? I'm not a geologist, but there have been situations in my own riding where water tables have changed for a variety of reasons.

Another question that arises in connection with this is whether or not there are any other instances within the province that you're aware of that have this type of system operating.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): If I could just intervene for a second here, I realize that a lot of the questions have been directed toward the witnesses from the City of Toronto, but I would also encourage any of the other witness, if you feel you have something to say, to make a comment as well.

Please continue.

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: Of particular interest is one in Saskatchewan that uses a similar technology. That one does not take residential garbage. It takes uranium tailings. I believe that site has been in existence for about five years, where they're using a similar type of technology on the flow of water into the pit to contain the contaminants. That one has been working successfully for five years now.

Mr. David Pratt: That gives me a tremendous amount of consolation, I can assure you.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. David Pratt: Do you know who paid for the hydrology studies that were used to reach a decision on the environmental assessment?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: We were not involved as the proponent. I think Mr. McGuinty is the more appropriate person to address that question to, sir, when he comes forward in the panel later in the evening.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Pratt.

To finish off our round of questioning for this panel, we have Madam Girard-Bujold.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): I would like to ask the representatives from the City of Toronto whether or not they are prepared, in order to demonstrate their good faith—and since they are convinced that they are right—to postpone signing the contract until the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has fulfilled its mandate.


Mr. Bill Saundercook: Madam Chair, I will begin by saying my bit, and I'll allow the CAO to finish up.

It's my understanding that we have some serious time constraints. The bids that are before us expire on December 15. Our last council meeting will take place on October 3, 4, and 5, and then we will be recessed until the election of November 13. So those two facts, I think, make it very difficult.

Mr. CAO.

• 2050

Mr. Michael Garrett: Just to add to that, our time constraints are all important to this point. The best scientific information we have says that this site is safe. It's a self-contained body of water in the bottom of a mine. It's not a navigable waterway or a fisheries river. Unless there's something that indicates that the technology doesn't work, which the review finds, we are under some obligation to proceed prior to the end of the year. There may be some other legal ways of dealing with it. If there is evidence, though, that says it's not safe, we don't want to proceed with this site. I think that's the position the city has always taken. The due diligence we've had is that if you have evidence from the experts that says this site isn't safe, we want to hear about it.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You expect to sign a contract with the developers. If you were to realize that you could not abide by the contract because of new developments, would you be able to invoke certain clauses of the contract to cancel it? Does the contract contain any such clauses? If so, I would like you to explain them to me.


Mr. Michael Garrett: The conditions are very stringent. In the contract there are performance bonds, and, as you can imagine, there are about 60 conditions in the certificate of approval that has to be issued for this site, which include extensive monitoring by both the provincial government and the federal departments. If any leakage occurs, immediate action would have to be taken by the proponent to correct the problem. So this is not a site that's going to be filled and walked away from. This is going to be monitored very actively. It's something that can be done. If there is an issue, it can be fixed.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: What I was trying to do was find out how much it would cost you if you were to decide, after obtaining new information, to cancel the contract. Have you already anticipated a specific amount for such a possibility?

Mr. Pierre Brien: Are there any penalties?


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: How much?

Mr. Michael Garrett: Do you mean if we awarded the contract and then cancelled it?

Mr. Angelos Bacopoulos: I suppose our legal people are better equipped to answer that question. The contract has not been signed. If we do sign a contract and information comes subsequent to it, I'm sure that the Ministry of the Environment, which has issued the certificate of approval for the site, would have something to say about that. If they withdrew the certificate of approval, I would think at that point in time our contract with the proponent would be null and void.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: In my region, contracts usually include penalty clauses should the contract be cancelled. I do not understand why the City of Toronto did not insist on having such provisions in case the developer were unable to meet his commitments.


Mr. Michael Garrett: There are performance requirements in the contract, and if they're not met, which is the scenario you were painting—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Yes, but...


Mr. Michael Garrett: —then we don't have to pay. They have in fact to pay us for not meeting their requirements.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'd like to thank the witnesses for appearing. Just before we complete this panel, would any of the other witnesses like to add something? No. Thank you very much.

We'll now begin our second panel. On our second panel we have Carol McBride, who is the Grand Chief of the Timiskaming First Nation; David Nahwegahbow and Patrick Nadjiwan, legal advisers.

• 2055

I would like to extend a warm welcome to Grand Chief Carol McBride, and I would also like to remind members that Mr. Bernier will continue to stay with us.

I understood that David Nahwegahbow would be with you. Is he here tonight or not?

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan (Legal Counsel, Timiskaming First Nation): I'm here tonight instead, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you. We would like to give you ten minutes for your presentation to the committee.

Grand Chief Carol McBride (Timiskaming First Nation): We will split it.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Five and five is fine, or you can use less. You don't have to use the full ten, but there was an agreement that you would get ten minutes for your panel.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: Madam Chair, I know that there are some materials being passed around. I will be making reference to them, and I know that Chief McBride will be as well. I notice that they're just going around now.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Are the materials being distributed? We have a problem, because the materials are only available in one language. We will make sure the materials are translated and circulated later.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: There are other materials that we were able to get translated in the time we had available. There is a map that's equally applicable in both languages. I would like to make reference to it, if I can.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): All right. Would you like to identify the materials, or are they easily identifiable?

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: The summary of evidence and the petition are the two materials we have provided. The summary of evidence contains the map I would like to make reference to.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): All right. We can pass all the materials out and then you can identify for the members what is in French and English.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: Yes.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): There is French included here. Okay. I was going to say sehr gut, but it's not an official language of the Parliament of Canada—perhaps Deutschland, but....

It's going to be a long evening, so Grand Chief and Mr. Nadjiwan, please.

Grand Chief Carol McBride: First of all, I'd like to extend my sincere apology to the French-speaking panel for not having had time to do the translation.

• 2100

Honourable members of Parliament, committee members, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Carol McBride. I am Chief of the Timiskaming First Nation, and Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat. I am here on behalf of my people to bring to your attention the potentially devastating effects to my community of the proposed Adams Mine landfill site.

The Timiskaming First Nation has a current population of 1,433, and about one-third of our members now reside on a Timiskaming Indian Reserve, which is located adjacent to Notre-Dame-du-Nord, Quebec, on the northeast side of Lake Timiskaming. Lake Timiskaming forms part of the boundary between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Unlike neighbouring first nations in Ontario, the Timiskaming First Nation never entered into land surrender treaties with the crown. As we have in the past, our members continue to use and occupy lands and waters on both sides of the interprovincial boundary, including those in the vicinity of the Adams Mine site. Our historical evidence shows continued use and occupation of our traditional territory since at least 1760. Our first nation therefore claims unextinguished aboriginal title to all of the lands and waters within its traditional territory, including the Adams Mine site.

The map that you have in your package shows the territory of the Algonquin Nation. This map was constructed based upon detailed research. As well as fur trade, colonial, federal, and mission records, it represents, based on best available data, the northern portion of the Timiskaming First Nation's traditional territories as of 1867. The Adams Mine site is located within this territory.

The Adams Mine site is within a watershed that forms part of the traditional territory of the Timiskaming First Nation. The coloured map attached to our handout on the third page shows the watersheds of the area in question. The bold black line along the top of the map represents the height of the land above which the rivers flow north into James Bay. The Adams Mine site and the Timiskaming Reserve are denoted by blue buttons below that line.

Like a funnel, the entire drainage area flows into a narrow corridor, the Blanche River, which then empties into the head of Lake Timiskaming. The watershed of the Adams Mine is the same part of a water source that supplies the Timiskaming Reserve, as well as other communities between the two sites.

My community stands to suffer the same consequences as the municipalities who have spoken before me. However, with respect, the harm that will come to my first nation is even greater. Being Algonquin, we have a special relationship with the land, and with that comes special responsibilities, including the responsibility to pass the land to generations to come as we have received it.

Our members continue to harvest fish, fowl, game, and medicinal plants from the area in question. Serious concerns have been raised about the potential impacts on the food chain if the dump proposal goes ahead. This may leave us with nothing to pass on to our future generations. The impacts on our culture and traditions would be devastating and irreversible.

In summary, the effects on my people will be felt through the interference with aboriginal title at the Adams Mine site, through contamination of the ecosystem in the watershed our members rely upon for harvesting, through contamination of the water supply used by our reserve, and the resulting effects on the health and safety of my people.

On behalf of my people, I would like to thank the environment committee for its concern over the potential negative impacts related to the Adams Mine landfill proposal. We ask for your further support in seeing that a full and comprehensive environmental review is completed before the proponents of this project are able to irreparably harm our land, our interests, our culture, and our people.

We urge you to assist the Government of Canada to fulfil the fiduciary and moral obligations it has toward the Algonquin Nation. Thank you. Meegwetch.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: Madam Chair, honourable members, thank you for hearing us this evening. We appreciate that. I will attempt to be as brief as I can.

• 2105

Let me first deal with the issue of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of the federal government and the Environmental Assessment Act remains unchallenged. Where there is an environmental issue that relates to a head of power that falls in the federal sphere, there is the power to deal with the environmental impacts. It is not specifically assigned in the division of powers, but flows from those heads that are assigned.

In the circumstances at hand, the test the minister must apply is a fairly clear test, and in my submission has been met by the facts that are before the committee today. The test is simply that it must be the minister's opinion that the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects in another province, which is the trans-provincial impact. In our submission, it also met subsection 48(1), which deals with federal lands including reserve lands, that it must be the minister's opinion that “the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects” on lands reserved for Indians, other federal lands, or lands in which respect Indians have interests. In my submission, the very nature of the project meets that test.

This is a man-made lake in which we are going to dump millions of pounds of refuse. We are going to have to require a pumping system to run for in excess of a hundred years to ensure that there are not adverse environmental effects. The test is whether there is a potential significant environmental impact, and the test is met on the face of the project itself.

The issue we wish to raise most clearly is the effect on aboriginal rights that are at play in this case. There are, in my submission, three separate sets of aboriginal rights that could be impacted by this project. I will state at the outset that it's important to note that aboriginal rights, by their nature, and also by their fact, are unique. These are not rights that can be purchased out, that can be moved. This is a right this first nation has that results from occupation and use of this land from time immemorial. You can't pick them up and move them forty miles down the road and have that same tie to this specific land.

So if it happens to be a detrimental effect to this reserve, it is of an extremely detrimental nature to this first nation's interests, because they are irreplaceable.

The first interest, which is set out in the act, is that this affects reserve lands. As the committee can see from the map that is provided in the summary of evidence, the Timiskaming Reserve lies at the bottom end of this watershed. If there happen to be problems with the water at the Adams Lake mine site and in this project, it will flow necessarily past and affect this reserve's lands. If we have the potential of meeting the transborder test, then I think we have also met the test under section 48 that it could have a detrimental effect on the reserve land.

It's important to note that reserve lands are held under a statutory trust by this federal crown for the use and benefit of this first nation. This raises it above normal titled interest that someone may have in fee simple. This body, this Parliament, holds this land in trust for this first nation. That elevates the obligation the government has to ensure that accidental damage and adverse effect doesn't happen.

The second and larger interest that is at play, frankly, is the aboriginal title claim the Algonquins claim for this entire watershed. There is already a claim that has been enunciated by the first nation. We're in the process of documenting that claim. All of the parties involved have been made aware that this first nation has not signed a treaty. This land is subject to the royal proclamation, and no one has a right to it until there has been a proper surrender. That has not happened in this case.

I think it is enlightening to look at how some people in the federal government have described this. I will read briefly from a letter from John Leslie, who is the chief of the Department of Indian Affairs claims and historical research centre. He sent a letter to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in 1997, in which he stated:

    Historical, anthropological, and archaeological information indicates that these Algonquin communities traditionally used lands and resources in northeastern Ontario, including the Adams Mine site. Current use studies demonstrate continuing Aboriginal harvesting and gathering activities in this region to the present day.

I highlight that to emphasize that this is not a claim that's floating out in the air somewhere. This is a very serious claim, which the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is aware of. They recognize the seriousness of it. It is something that falls to Parliament's obligation, the fiduciary obligation, to deal with protected rights under the Constitution to at least consider that when dealing with the environmental impacts.

• 2110

The aboriginal title has changed since Delgamuukw. It's now a clear, legal fact. It's a burden on title that exists prior to somebody agreeing that it does. The federal government will be vested with the liability of what happens to those rights today if they fail to recognize it for another 20 years. That should be something the government keeps in mind when assessing environmental impacts of this size.

I'm getting the nod to move on.

Let me just say that I think it's important to recognize that the Ontario process was insufficient. The Ontario process excluded aboriginal interests when they defined the scope of the hearings that took place. Those 15-day hearings were defined in such a narrow fashion that there wasn't even the possibility to raise the interests of this first nation in what was going on.

The only inclusion we got was consultation from the proponent, which in my submission doesn't even come close to meaningful consultation. You can't have the proponent of a billion-dollar project meeting with the Indians and saying “We've heard from them and we don't need to hear from them any more; we've dealt with their interests.” They're not likely to change their mind, no matter what they hear. It's not meaningful consultation. That's an obligation of the federal government.

Finally, the relationship with the federal government is different from that of Ontario. You cannot sit back and rely on what Ontario did because they don't have the same clear fiduciary obligations the federal government has. Those need to be met and considered. If this project is going to pass with flying colours, let's do it. If the proponents feel it's going to happen, what's the problem? Let's do it.

In my submission, it's important that we make sure we don't have another Walkerton. What I would hate to see is the position of the federal government in 20 years when there's an environmental disaster and the claim has been substantiated. Where will the federal government stand at that point in time? In my submission, the only way to prevent that is with an assessment today.

I thank the chair and the committee for your time. I will be with the chief and available for questions.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

I have on the list Monsieur Brien, Mr. Gruending, and Mr. Herron.


Mr. Pierre Brien: Thank you for giving us these documents, most of which have been translated. Some organizations with considerably more resources than yours do not bother to go through the same exercise.

I heard one developer tell us, on several occasions, that the Algonquins had been consulted and that they had participated in this process since 1995. How do you answer developers when they make such a statement?


Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: I have a couple of responses.

First, the sum total of meetings with the proponent was an hour and 45 minutes in 1997. I understand the proponent will point to consultations with other first nations, and in my submission you can't substitute one red face for another. That consultation is an individual right for each first nation, and that simply did not take place in this circumstance.

There was one meeting that started at 9:45 and it was over at 10:30, and the first nation made it clear to the proponent that it was not considered to be consultation; it was an information meeting. They were willing to hear from him, but they were not prepared to engage in a consultation process at that point in time. There has been nothing since.


Mr. Pierre Brien: Given the testimony that we've heard, the City of Toronto does not appear to want to change its mind and seems determined to sign this contract in seven or eight days. In your opinion, what type of calendar or timeline should the federal agency adopt? When do you think that the federal government will intervene or respond? Is next week's date important and significant for you in terms of the process?


Grand Chief Carol McBride: We need an answer on an urgent basis. From what I understand—and I'm not a technical person and I don't pretend to be one—they are about to commence dewatering the pit. It sounds like it's going to start at the beginning of November, once the contract is signed.

We have a lot of problems with the dewatering. We're asking the federal government today to please hurry with their decision for a federal environmental assessment to protect that site as it is right now. I'm hoping they add section 50, I think it is, where they will not be able to touch it until the assessment is finished.

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Mr. Pierre Brien: I would like to hear what Mr. Bernier has to say on the matter. Do you have any way of ensuring that the project will not move ahead until you have completed the requested assessment?

Mr. Paul Bernier: We have no way of doing this. The power exists if the minister concludes, after receiving our opinion, that the situation justifies a review by a board, or mediation. In that case, as Chief McBride indicated, an injunction can be issued under section 50 of the act. The minister can order that the developer not take any steps to allow the project to go ahead.

Mr. Pierre Brien: Does the fact that the contract will be signed next week have any bearing, as far as you are concerned, on the speed with which you will be making a recommendation to the minister?

Mr. Paul Bernier: Yes, and I can tell you that, despite the complexity of the issues involved, the agency has assured us that its work will proceed, with the participation of other departments, as quickly as possible.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: What assurances did the agency give?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The agency has assured us that the work it will be undertaking, with the participation of other departments, will be carried out as quickly as possible. I am aware of the timelines, but as I said earlier, moreover, from what I can gather for the time being, it is not a matter of days. We are sharing our information with the concerned departments as soon as we get it. Consequently, this will not take place in a matter of days.

Mr. Pierre Brien: Since there are just about five working days left before the decision, we cannot help thinking that your recommendation will not make it in before the municipal council's deadline next week.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gruending, please.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you.

Mr. Bernier, you mentioned earlier that the Timiskaming First Nation sent some material to the government in March or April and that it was your agency or the department that reviewed it in August.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I indicated that Chief McBride wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in March or April asking him to invoke section 48 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That letter, I believe, was copied to the Minister of the Environment. I think it was only with respect to additional material that was submitted. That was done more recently. That was around the first of September or the end of August. I think I have a receipt date around....

Mr. Dennis Gruending: I'm going to ask the chief about that in a minute. I guess the question I have is this. If material arrived at Indian Affairs in March or April, why would it take almost five months for it to be shifted over to another department and looked at and reviewed?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The reference I made to material was to our inquiring, after having considered the original letter to another minister, not to our a potential petition to our minister.

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We followed up on that, asking for the additional material the first nation indicated it had. The original letter didn't—I don't believe—include all of the information the first nation wished to share, but they can speak to that better than I can. They followed up with more information, and it's that information we received fairly recently.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Perhaps I could ask you, Chief McBride, for your point of view. You sent something to the Minister of Indian Affairs in March or April. Did you have an expectation that it would be acted upon more quickly than it was, taking a number of months?

Grand Chief Carol McBride: As I said earlier, I'm not a technical person. I did expect the department to maybe give more information in a faster manner. We had submitted the rest of our materials, though, August 31.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Did the department get in touch with you and tell you that you should submit more material?

Grand Chief Carol McBride: Yes, they did, but it was some time after.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: How long, would you say?

Grand Chief Carol McBride: I can't remember the exact dates. If I would say a date I would be just guessing, but it was some time after we had written the letter.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: I'd like to ask you briefly about your relationship as a first nation with some of the other groups who've appeared here today. I'm sorry I didn't get to ask them some questions. I had meant to but didn't, and they came a long way. It seems you're working together in this. Could you describe that a bit, either one of you?

Grand Chief Carol McBride: First of all, the Timiskaming First Nation has been involved in this dossier since 1995. I was not the grand chief at the time; it was Harry St-Denis who was grand chief, but I was the Chief of the Timiskaming First Nation. I had always pressed this issue. I felt it was important and detrimental to the health and safety of our people.

I guess we really got involved.... I'm going to speak from my heart here. I always felt that this project would never go ahead, and I felt that way because this project is nonsense. It puts us as northerners in jeopardy of our health and our safety. I felt that people who were in government, whether federal or provincial, would put a stop to this nonsense. I never proceeded to take a really active role because I always thought that somewhere there would be an end.

After seeing that there was not going to be an end, I had to get very active. I started voicing my opinion at rallies. And that wasn't very long ago; that was just up to a few months ago, when I knew that this project was going to go ahead and the reality was there.

To me, we made history. We have native people, we have Bloc Québécois, we have the MPP from Ontario, we have federal Liberals, we have the mayors, we have the farmers, all grouping together. And that should say something. That should say that we are together because our lives and our environment are in danger, and that's why we're together. Something so detrimental to our area brings it, and I don't think we'll ever be the same. I think we have formed allies in these deep concerns that we have.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Herron.

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Mr. John Herron: My first question is for Mr. Bernier. Once you collect all your information, I suspect even tonight's activities will be a component of that. Would that be a fair assessment with regard to the assessment? Will the evidence of this committee hearing be utilized?

Mr. Paul Bernier: Certainly we will put before the minister all relevant information that we have access to.

Mr. John Herron: When you put forward a recommendation to the federal minister, is it just evidence toward the federal minister or does he take all the paperwork and squirrel it away and form his own opinion? Do you actually make a recommendation about yes, no, maybe, or probably?

Mr. Paul Bernier: We will make a recommendation to the minister, as I indicated earlier, with the expert input of scientific staff of Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada. That recommendation will be in relation to the potential for significant transboundary environmental effects related to this project.

Mr. John Herron: I'd like to finish up with two questions. That recommendation, I trust, will be public knowledge. We will have full access to that. All parliamentarians will have full access to the submission you provide to the minister at the same time in the interest of openness and disclosure, yes or no.

Mr. Paul Bernier: The normal regime would apply. In terms of access, you're better aware than I am about the provisions of access to information under the Access to Information Act.

Mr. John Herron: So we have to go and get it. You're not going to provide it.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I personally haven't given any consideration to the nature of the recommendation.

Mr. John Herron: This is my last question, Madam Chair. Clearly, the witnesses during the second half of our triple-header have indicated that they believe there are federal triggers related to Indian Affairs and Northern Development that could precipitate federal intervention. Are you of that ilk as well?

Mr. Paul Bernier: I keep wanting to come back to the document I prepared for members, because I think there are very useful pieces of information in it. I don't know whether you have access to it—

Mr. John Herron: I didn't have a chance to read it, so maybe you can give me information about that part.

Mr. Paul Bernier: Certainly, I'd be happy to.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I believe we have that document.

Mr. Paul Bernier: Is it on the record?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Yes.

Mr. Paul Bernier: It's easier if you can refer to it. The answer to your question is that—

Mr. John Herron: I'm asking—

Mr. Paul Bernier: I'm trying to give you an answer.

Mr. John Herron: —about the testimony we've had from witnesses on that aspect of possibly having federal intervention triggers related to Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Do you see that potentially to be a trigger to go forward with an assessment?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The explanation I've put on paper and that I can speak about to you now is that we are looking at whether there is any decision by the federal government in relation to this project under the transboundary provisions. The understanding of that is crucial, because if there is a federal decision to be made or having been made already in relation to this project, then those transboundary provisions cannot apply. So there can be no federal environmental assessment in those circumstances. We have not completed the legal analysis that allows us to answer that question.

Separate from the transboundary provisions of the act, I can tell you that in the past when, for example, Environment Canada participated in the provincial review, at that time and heretofore there has been a conclusion federally that there is nothing specifically that triggers the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That means that the federal government is not a proponent in relation to the project, that it is not providing any financial assistance to it, that it is not providing land in order for the project to proceed, and that it is not in a situation where it is making a regulatory decision or a decision under an act of Parliament in relation to the project. So on the triggering of the act, up until now the answer has been and continues to be no.

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What we're responding to now is a petition that indicates concern, which the minister has taken very seriously, and that deals with the transboundary effects of the project, potentially, on the reserve lands of the first nation or, more generically, on the province of Quebec. Those are the two provisions we're looking at and asking, can they apply?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Bernier, it looks as if in March or April of this year there was a representation made to Indian Affairs that somehow filtered indirectly on to you. Is that correct?

Mr. Paul Bernier: At a later point in time, correct.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Then more information was asked for, and I understand there was a meeting or meetings with the agency before the chief's letter of September 1 was sent to you. Is that correct?

Mr. Paul Bernier: That is correct. I met with Chief McBride in mid-August along with a representative or two of the minister.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Now, when we take all of these things into consideration and also the fact that there's a tremendous urgency—and I hope I heard you wrong that your possible decision might come, unfortunately, after the signing of the contract if it's next week, which would be a real tragedy—when we look at the whole of this perspective, Mr. Nadjiwan's representations about the act, with which I concur 100%.... Without hearing him before, I looked at it with colleagues, and I found out that what he was saying, especially in regard to the impacts on Indian lands and the trusteeship lands, is very compelling in the act, that under sections 46, 48, and 50, which give the power to the minister to postpone the inception of a project if he's satisfied that there's a trigger under sections 46 and 48....

When you put all of these things into perspective and when you look at this map that shows an elevation of something like 1,400 feet above sea level going down to Lac Témiscamingue so that the water is flowing down, is there any way whereby the federal assessment agency can make a recommendation without getting into so much complexity that it provokes a trigger?

If not, when you look at the environmental assessment carried out by Ontario, it didn't look into socioeconomic issues on a broad scale or ecosystemic issues, and it certainly didn't look at aboriginal issues. So where else are these people going to find protection if not under our act? We are the trustee for the Indians. That's why this section was put in. How come we can't say, yes, we are going to protect them and make sure they get a hearing? If we don't do it, who's going to do it for them? I'm baffled by this whole thing.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I understand your question, Mr. Lincoln. The work, of course, that the agency is doing in relation to the petition is governed by the powers given by Parliament to the Minister of the Environment. That is what we are giving priority to, to understand whether the powers given to the minister by Parliament in fact can be applied in this case as Parliament intended. If upon the advice received by the minister from the agency he concludes that a review panel is appropriate in the circumstances, the mandate of that review panel is constrained again by the power Parliament gave him. By that, I mean that the assessment of the environmental effects will not necessarily be as broad as might be desired. We have to be governed by what is in the act. It will be focused only on those transboundary effects—

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Mr. Clifford Lincoln: We all agree that we have to be constrained by what is in the act, obviously.

What I was going to ask you is this. You heard a clear interpretation of the provision by Mr. Nadjiwan, as far as he sees it. Do you have any beefs or contradictions with what he says today, or, if he has an opinion, can the agency, with all its powers, with all its people, with all its access to the Ministry of Justice, come up with an opinion within as much time as a small law office of three or four people can?

Do you disagree with what he said tonight?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The legal analysis we have I can only say is incomplete, and that is because of the fact that the information that is available thus far does not allow us to complete it. For example, and this is a possibility, say there is a department that has a decision in relation to this project, and that has not been ruled out; in that circumstance the transboundary provisions of the act do not apply. Therefore, the minister is not empowered by the act to call for a review panel.

So rather than waste time in trying to refine the legal analysis, we have chosen to proceed in parallel with attempting to clarify the analysis and at the same time look at the significance of the new information provided by the first nations, rather than do it in sequence, so we can come to a conclusion more quickly and advise the minister accordingly.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I would like to advise the other witnesses, as I did the previous panel, that sometimes we get into a situation where one witness keeps getting questions directed at them. If you feel at any time that you would like to make a comment, please let the chair know.

I'm just wondering at this point if you have any comments on what's been happening with this round of questioning.

Grand Chief Carol McBride: I could go on and on about how I'm feeling right now. As the leader of my community, what I'm hearing tonight is not what will calm me. Toronto is taking a vote in five or six days from now. I have a population to hold down, because I'll tell you right now they will not allow this. They won't.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Grand Chief.

We now have Mrs. Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Madam Chairperson. Obviously this is an issue that has a lot of passion and a lot of interest.

Mr. Bernier, can you tell us how public concern plays into the transboundary aspect of this matter?

Mr. Paul Bernier: If the minister were to conclude as a result of the recommendations provided to him by the agency, and whatever other counsel he sought, that this merited referral to a review panel, he could only do so under the act on the basis of potentially significant adverse environmental effects of a transboundary nature. He is not empowered by Parliament to call for such a review panel on the basis of public concern, which is a factor that enters into other areas of the act but not in relation to the section on transboundary effects.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Have there been any federal decisions that would have an impact on this matter?

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Mr. Paul Bernier: No. There have been thus far no federal decisions in relation to the application of the Environmental Assessment Act. With respect to any other power, duty, or function under any other act of Parliament, that is part of our delay in completing a legal analysis. We believe there may be none, but we don't have the certainty of that at this point, and we need that in order to inform the minister of the powers he has. If there is such an exercise of a federal power, duty, or function in relation to the project, then those transboundary provisions cannot apply.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Mr. Pratt, please, and then Madame Girard-Bujold.

Mr. David Pratt: How much time do I have, Madam Chair?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): You have five minutes.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay.

My question, Mr. Bernier, relates to the document you provided to the committee. I have had a chance to read over a good portion of it. I'm intrigued with respect to the heading “Provincial Assessment”, where it says, on the second line:

    Scientific experts from Environment Canada were involved in this review

—dating back to 1996 for the provincial environmental assessment. It goes on to say, under “Technical Analysis” on page 3, that:

    The technical analysis will focus specifically on the potential contamination of ground and surface waters resulting from the Project on lands in Québec and on lands in which the Timiskaming First Nation has an interest. In undertaking this analysis, the Agency will be drawing upon the expertise of scientists in Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

First of all, it may seem like a small point, but I'm just wondering why Natural Resources Canada wouldn't have been involved in the 1996 assessment.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I don't have an answer to that question.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay.

The other question I have relates to the business of the further assessment by Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada. It seems to me that, typically at least, based on what I have seen, Environment Canada and perhaps even Natural Resources Canada wouldn't necessarily have the level of expertise required in terms of landfill sites in general. To get expertise on landfill sites, you have to go to the people who deal with landfill sites on a regular basis, which is the municipal level of government.

I am just wondering, with respect to this further technical analysis that's going on, whether or not you might consider looking to a municipal government to provide you with independent advice and perhaps refer you to consultants who could provide more independent advice on this issue. Is that something that is within the realm of possibility?

Mr. Paul Bernier: As we attempted to indicate in this document, the agency will be looking at all of the relevant information it has received, and that certainly will include, I believe, a lot of information that is related to the proponent's perceptions, its consultants, and other expertise. We take that as a given, in addition to which we have the information provided by the petitioner.

I think it is incumbent upon us to turn to our own internal expertise in the first instance. I don't know at this point that I will be told that the departments we identify here don't have sufficient expertise. My assumption currently is that it does exist. If we are told otherwise, we will have to reassess.

Mr. David Pratt: I suppose given the notoriety of this particular case, the high level of public attention that has been focused on this, would you not consider it perhaps a good idea that a higher standard be used in this particular case in terms of bringing in independent, outside technical expertise?

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Mr. Paul Bernier: I have no reason to lack any confidence in the level of expertise available within the federal government at this point in time.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay.

With respect to the final sentence of the final paragraph on technical analysis, it refers to the minister's referral of the project to a panel review or mediation under the act. Can you talk a little bit about what mediation might entail? Would it, for instance, require the provincial government to reopen aspects of its provincial environmental assessment? How does that work? Can you explain that?

Mr. Paul Bernier: For mediation to work—and I refer to this in a generic sense—it is clear that there would have to be agreement by all relevant parties. Therefore, one of the first tests would be to understand whether those parties can find consensus on the merits of mediation rather than the merits of a review panel.

Mediation is more typically something that goes on in less than a public forum, and traditionally you have to have very few or fewer people who have an interest in the issue in order to come to a conclusion. The more people you have, the more difficult the mediation is; it's not impossible, but it certainly is easier when there are fewer people and fewer issues.

So it will be a matter, if the minister concludes that this requires a referral to a review panel or mediation, to assess the merits and demerits of those two courses of action.

Mr. David Pratt: I have a final question, Madam Chair, very short.

Based on what you know about the case right now, what do you see as a more likely alternative if the minister were to decide to invoke the relevant sections of the act? Would it be mediation, or do you think it would be a review panel?

Mr. Paul Bernier: I don't have the information to allow me to speculate on that right now.

Mr. David Pratt: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Madame Girard-Bujold, and then the chair will have a couple of questions.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Bernier, you indicated in your brief and stated several times this evening that Environment Canada had participated in the environmental assessment conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Environment an Energy.

I would like to know what Environment Canada went on, since, as the Grand Chief and her adviser said, a trusteeship relationship exists between Canada and the First Nations. During its evaluation, did Environment Canada take this relationship into account? Was there any analysis at that level? If not, I would suggest that you respond to the First Nations' request.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I must admit that I do not have detailed information on Environment Canada's involvement with respect to the assessment undertaken by its provincial counterpart. We will contact the department to determine if, in light of the additional information, it has reached conclusions that are different from the ones it had reached at the time.

The agency is now examining this matter relating to repercussions for First Nations, obviously a very important aspect that will have an impact on the action we recommend to the minister.

Although I am inclined to believe that Environment Canada has not yet examined that aspect, I can ensure that the issue will be examined seriously as part of the analysis that we will conduct in co-operation with the departments of the Environment and Natural Resources.

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Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Given your answer to my question, why don't you suspend the process immediately? We are facing a situation that has a direct impact on the Aboriginal nation and you should be in a position to recommend that the Minister of the Environment suspend this process before October 2. We should be able to obtain clarification that will enable us to understand all sides of the matter before the City of Toronto enters into any firm agreements with the developer.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I must point out that the agency does not have the authority to prevent the City of Toronto from entering into any agreements, nor can the minister do so, to the best of my knowledge. This decision is out of our hands. The act stipulates that the minister is required to examine the information provided by the First Nations dealing with the petition. He must start by determining if there will be any major negative repercussions with respect to the borders. He cannot use an injunction before having determined that there will in fact be a negative impact.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: We all acknowledge that the First Nations have rights. You said that the minister would examine the First Nations' claims carefully. You agreed that the First Nations have a say in the project and you acknowledged that they were not consulted in a very comprehensive way. They did not have an opportunity to express their concerns to the departments of the environment at the federal and provincial levels. So I think that gives us another reason for telling the minister that the First Nations were not really heard. I remind you of the trusteeship relationship between the Canadian government and the First Nations. In my opinion, you could make a recommendation to the minister along these lines and he would be in a position to take action before October 2.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I must simply point out that the agency carries out its responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of the act and the authority bestowed upon it by Parliament. We act as quickly as possible to ensure that the minister is aware of all of the relevant information and that he is in a position to make a decision as soon as possible.


The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

I'm just going to ask a couple of quick questions. Is Moosehead Lake affected? This is coming courtesy of Mr. Herron. Is Moosehead Lake part of the affected area of the project?

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: As the chief has indicated, she is not a technical person, and in many ways nor am I. I am not certain if it is or not.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Okay.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: The technical people we have consulted aren't....

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Can someone else provide us with that?

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: There are some other witnesses who may know, from other parties.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): All right.

Please give your name and your position, and speak into the microphone for Hansard.

Mr. Stan Gorzalinscky (Technical Adviser, Campaign Against the Adams Mine): My name is Stan Gorzalinscky, and I'm technical representative for the Campaign Against the Adams Mine. I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, so this is slightly out of my field, but I have very good understanding of earth sciences and I have followed the project for five years and have reviewed all of the studies, so I feel quite confident in speaking technically about it.

To answer your question, Moosehead Lake is in the affected area. It will receive treated effluent discharge. It will also be exposed to pit dewatering. At that stage I guess it could have a negative impact if pit dewatering occurs too quickly. Moosehead Lake is a cold water fishery. It hosts species such as brook trout, which are very sensitive to disturbance of the water. It's also very sensitive to oxygen content and other parameters such as ammonia.

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I don't know if I've answered your question fully.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): You have more than answered my question fully. Thank you very much for your input on that.

When Mr. Nadjiwan was making his presentation he was talking about three sets of aboriginal rights that he elaborated for the committee, as well as the impacts on aboriginal people and their lands. It seemed to me, as I was listening to the exchange between Mr. Lincoln and you, Mr. Bernier, he was asking if you agreed with some of the things Mr. Nadjiwan had outlined for the committee. However, I noticed some frustration in my colleague because perhaps you were misunderstanding, or you seemed to be focusing on some of the transboundary water issues. I'm wondering if perhaps you could comment on whether you agree with some of the things Mr. Nadjiwan said with regard to aboriginal rights and some of the other things he said about the impact on aboriginal people, and how it may affect this process and whether this was a useful or appropriate intervention for CEAA.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I certainly listened with the greatest respect to the comments offered, and I think they were very valid. All of the comments this evening are important to the understanding of the issue. I wouldn't single out any individual witness. I guess I was trying to merely attempt to explain to committee members and witness the constraints within which the act must be applied.

With respect to the effects of this project on lands that are described in section 48 of the act, there are certain categories spelled out. We haven't moved into that level of technical detail, but obviously the lands that are occupied by the first nation are a category of lands, referring to the reserve itself, which is set out, and it is in relation to that category of lands that we have to look at the potential impact of transboundary effect. That is at this point the only category of lands in relation to section 48 that legally the minister is able to look at. He is unable to legally look at any other category of lands. For example, in relation to a land claim that might be submitted related to a broader area where there is an original title claimed, that is not a category that at present matches with the definition set out in the act.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Perhaps you would not wish to single out a particular witness, but I have. I was wondering if you agreed with some of the things Mr. Nadjiwan put forward.

I welcome comment from Mr. Nadjiwan or Chief McBride as well.

Mr. Patrick Nadjiwan: If I may, Madam Chair, just briefly, typically section 48 does refer specifically to reserve lands, but the section goes on to also include lands in respect of which Indians have interests. It's my opinion that that should be interpreted to include interests such as aboriginal title, which is protected under the Constitution and with which the federal government owes a fiduciary obligation to protect. I think it also includes interests such as the third category of aboriginal rights, which are site-specific rights, to engage in certain activities such as hunting, fishing, and ceremonial sacred places, which, while they may not rise to the level of aboriginal title, which is use and occupation to the exclusion of all others, is also a right, an interest in land, that is protected under the Constitution.

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In my submission to the committee, the minister can and must consider, in addition to the neatly defined reserves, those interests that are both legal and vested currently.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Bernier.

Mr. Paul Bernier: I just want to draw to the attention of all present that I understand what you are indicating with respect to the notion of lands in which Indians have interest. However, that is a term that is very specifically defined in this piece of legislation, and it is a definition that you find in subsection 48(6) of the legislation that the minister is empowered to operate with and not a broader definition.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much. I want to thank the witnesses for this panel and the members. We've been progressing very well through our hearing tonight.

I want to again thank you, Grand Chief McBride, for being here with us tonight, and thank you for expressing from your heart the concern of your people. We will be listening with our ears and our heads and hearts as well. Thank you so much.

I'd also like to thank Mr. Bernier. You're going to be sticking around for our third panel, and I think you might want a five-minute break. We certainly do appreciate your ability to hang in there.

We're going to have a five-minute break, and then we'll start with our third and final panel.

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• 2211

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'll call us back to order.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Madam Chair, on a point of order, I just wanted to mention that our colleague Benoît Serré, who has taken a very keen interest in this project and has been in the forefront of it with other colleagues for many months, has advised us that he can't be here tonight because of the death of his father-in-law. I just wanted to let people know that, because they might be wondering why he isn't here tonight.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Mr. Lincoln. It was my understanding that Benoît Serré was going to be here and would be participating—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Yes, but that's the reason.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much. I wasn't aware of this other situation.

Now we're moving to our third panel. It's too bad we can't do a short, snappy round and pick it up really quickly. No? No one wants to be a millionaire?

We have four presentations. We have the Notre Development Corporation, Gordon McGuinty, president; from Gartner Lee Ltd., Steve Usher, who is a hydrogeologist; from Campaign Against the Adams Mine, Pierre Bélanger, who is a spokesperson for the campaign; and I understand that Brennain Lloyd, coordinator for Northwatch, will be speaking as well. At the table there is also.... I'm trying to read my clerk's handwriting. He is an incredibly wonderful, efficient clerk, who put this all together very quickly, but he's going to have to print for me. We have Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte, who is with the Committee for the Safeguarding of Lac Témiscamingue—my French is terrible, and our dear clerk's handwriting would make it impossible for me to read—and Mr. Gorzalinscky, who will be acting as a resource as well.

On this panel, each of the presenters—and we have four—will be making a five-minute presentation and we will have the same order of questioning with the members. First perhaps we could hear from Mr. McGuinty, who is president of Notre Development Corporation. I also should mention that Mr. McGuinty has brought a package of information to the committee. Unfortunately it is only in English. Thank you.

Mr. McGuinty.

Mr. Gordon McGuinty (President, Notre Development Corporation): Thank you very much, Madam Chairperson. We welcome the opportunity to meet with the committee. I will try to use my five minutes as expeditiously as possible.

What I want to assure the committee about is that the Adams Mine has, over a five-year period, experienced a full environmental assessment. I'd also like to deal with the fact that the federal government has been extensively involved in the process to date and also they will continue to be involved in the process in the future. I would like to note that the first nations petition is being examined. In our view, it does not contain new information. Finally, I'd like to say that the final approval of process by the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario ensures ongoing communication and involvement with the first nations.

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I apologize for the information being only in English. Time restraints made it a little tight for our company to do that, and I do apologize.

I point out on the first fact sheet we've given you that the environmental assessment process in Ontario was a transparent process. Anyone who has wanted to be involved over the five-year period has had the opportunity to be involved. Also, I'll point out that in the end of the process, the Environmental Assessment Board mandated a community liaison committee that has 12 different representatives on it, including representatives from the first nations.

In the package I have given you, I have given a chronological order of the 10 years of work and the technical due diligence that has gone into the approval of the Adams Mine in the province of Ontario. In terms of the discussion on whether or not a full environmental assessment was held, I want to assure the committee that every discipline has been studied. No discipline under the Environmental Assessment Act of Ontario was ignored. Even though things like noise, dust, and transportation were not key things because of the location of our landfill, there were studies done on them. We examined and did a study on whether or not there would be any impact on agriculture. We looked at social impacts. We looked at all of those areas. So again, I want to assure the committee that this work was done, that due diligence was done not only by our company but by the Province of Ontario in the submission.

In terms of the work and the involvement in this process from the federal government, you've heard testimony and comment that Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans have all been involved. I've provided again an overview of the specific documentation that was provided to those agencies, which they had the ability to input into and comment on. Also, I have done an overview for you of specific dates and specific actions and communications that our company and the Ministry of the Environment had with various agencies of the federal government.

I think one of the important things to understand here is that the certificate of approval that was given by the Province of Ontario mandates that there was a monitoring and contingency planning working group in place for over two years that Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada had input into, and Fisheries and Oceans in particular remain a part of that group. Over the next two years, as the landfill is developed, there are specific trigger levels and different things that have to be done, and the federal government will continue to have input into that particular mandated condition by the Minister of the Environment of Ontario.

In terms of our communications with the first nations, we've provided you with an overview that shows that our first communication with the first nations began on this project in 1990. Clearly, it's evident to everybody that this has been probably the largest landfill in the province of Ontario and has probably come under the greatest public scrutiny. Our responsibility in the environmental assessment process in Ontario was to ensure that any first nation that wanted to had an opportunity to become involved in the consultation on this process.

So what I've tried to do for you there is lay out the dates and the times and the types of communication that we did. Clearly, not all of the first nations decided to participate in the communication. Many of them decided to opt out of participating fully. We did meet with the Timiskaming First Nation. They did have the opportunity to continue in the process if it was their wish. The Ontario environmental assessment process does not preclude a first nation coming from Quebec and giving input. There was nothing there that would stop that.

I would like to say, though, that when the Province of Ontario mandated the public hearings, the public hearings lasted for six weeks and the first nations were represented at those hearings through the Beaver House community, which is the community closest to the Adams Mine. They asked for full status at the public hearings. The Environmental Assessment Board gave them that status, and they had legal representation throughout the hearing.

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At the conclusion of that hearing, as I said at the outset, the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario enshrined in our condition of approval that the Beaver House First Nation sits on our community liaison committee, and as a result, over the 20-year span that this landfill operates they will have an opportunity to continue to be involved and know exactly what's going on throughout the entire period.

I know you'll have a lot of questions, but to summarize on my presentation, there was a full environmental assessment in Ontario. There were open and public hearings. We believe the federal government played a constructive role in the two- and three-year periods in which those hearings took place. We believe the Ontario government listened to the input, and certainly our consultants had to, and did, listen to the input from the government.

Relevant to the petition before your minister and CEAA at this point in time, we believe there is no new information and we understand that has been confirmed by the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario.

Notre Development has always had the concern and understood that in any process in this country today you have to be respectful of the first nations. We cannot make them participate, but the opportunity has been there and will continue to be there.

Finally, I think we're in a situation here where our company has no hesitation to stand behind the technical documentation, which has been reviewed endlessly and peer-reviewed, and I think that from our point of view the politics should be taken out of this. We have what our company believes is the safest landfill site anywhere in the province of Ontario. We don't have any hesitation that CEAA can complete their review. You have heard from Mr. Bernier that he has some legal considerations to look at and he has to examine whether there is new information that wasn't taken into consideration in the original environmental assessment, and we look forward to an expeditious decision by his department.

Thank you very much.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

Mr. Usher.

Mr. Steve Usher (Hydrogeologist, Gartner Lee Ltd.): Thank you.

My name is Steven Usher. I'm a professional engineer. My field is contaminant hydrogeology, both by education and by practice. Over the past twenty years I have investigated, designed, built, and monitored landfills in Ontario. As such, I have been admitted as an expert in this regard by the Ontario Environmental Assessment Board, and hopefully tonight at this committee I can help you out with some of the technical questions.

I work for a company called Gartner Lee Ltd. We were hired first in 1995 by the public liaison committee. This committee was set up by the City of Toronto, or by Metro Toronto at the time, to be the liaison with the public out there. They hired us independently and we were at arm's length from the proponents. When that committee was turned into the community liaison committee, we were retained again by them to take that same role.

I'm here to speak on what I know from those past five years of work. I'd like to assist with any technical matters or questions you have tonight, and if you would allow me to speak to the environmental safety of the mine, I'd like to do that.

This site has been studied in a full environmental assessment by professional engineers and geoscientists who were hired by the proponent to look at it. It has been reviewed and accepted by the Ministry of the Environment experts who were responsible for issuing the certificate of approval, it has been reviewed by the City of Toronto's experts as part of their due diligence this past year, and it has undergone my own scrutiny on behalf of the public liaison committee and the community liaison committee.

I can say to this committee without reservation that this landfill site is safe. The design is based on the inward flow of groundwater. The inward flow of groundwater is based on the law of gravity.

I have a small prepared text that I'd like to move away from right now, because several questions have come up and I think I can help clarify them.

I'd like to offer some information on the point of transboundary effects from a technical point of view. The water that will be discharged from this landfill goes through a sewage treatment plant. It is cleaned just like any leachate in any landfill in Ontario and indeed in North America. It's standard technology. There's nothing new there. It is discharged not to Moosehead Lake; it is discharged to Moosehead Creek, a short creek that flows to the Misema River. The Misema River flows to the Blanche River. The Blanche River flows to Lake Timiskaming, some 75 kilometres away. All of these waters that I'm naming, with the exception of Lake Timiskaming, are in Ontario. The amount of flow that comes from this 5,000-square-kilometre area absolutely and completely overwhelms any discharge of even clean water from this landfill site.

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I'd like to deal also with the assumption of impact. What I've heard tonight in this room has related to, “Well, it's going to impact us, it's going to impact this, it's going to impact that.” The basis for the whole conversation tonight is that this landfill will impact. This landfill will not impact. The law of gravity makes it function. The water will be treated and will meet provincial water quality objectives, which are set for the protection of fish, bugs, birds, anything using the water. By conditions of approval, they have to meet these. There are contingencies if they don't. There is monitoring to show if they don't.

I have read newspaper reports that predict widespread pollution. Much that we've heard tonight is based on that fear. These predictions are simply untrue and are based on no foundation in science.

These same questions were posed to me by the public liaison committee in 1995 and they were answered by the technical studies that were done by the proponent. On behalf of the public liaison committee, we also asked questions; we asked hard, technical questions, both I myself and my colleagues in the other science disciplines, from 1995 to 1999. These too were answered, and in many cases they were answered by further study.

We were directed by the public liaison committee to study the Timiskaming district in particular because the proponent did not feel a need to do it at the time. Our answer to the same question was, well, let's take a look at it and see if there's an issue. We were asked several questions: What will happen to the water from the mine? Will it reach Timiskaming? We concluded that it would not by groundwater. We were asked, if the landfill leaked—and it won't—will it impact the groundwater resources of Timiskaming? It cannot physically do that.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Please summarize. Thank you.

Mr. Steve Usher: I would be pleased to stop right now and answer any questions you may have when my turn comes.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Next on our witness list is Pierre Bélanger, who is the spokesperson with Campaign Against the Adams Mine.


Mr. Pierre Bélanger (Spokesperson, Campaign Against the Adams Mine): Madam Chair, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Pierre Bélanger. I am pleased to be here today, representing the interests of the Campaign Against the Adams Mine. I would like to introduce the other members of my team: Brennain Lloyd, representing Northwatch, and Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte, from the Comité pour la sauvegarde du lac Témiscamingue, as well as Stan Gorzalinscky, engineer and our technical adviser, who will not make a presentation but will be here to answer any technical questions you may have.


The 1998 tightly scoped Ontario environmental assessment, which granted an operating permit to the promoters, did not consider federal interests—i.e., the impact on federal lands or lands in which there is an aboriginal interest—or the surface water impacts on rivers and lakes situated in both the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The panel only looked at the conceptual design of the project: Would hydraulic containment work in this application? Would water only move into the garbage pit from all sides for 120 years, or would it move in and then out through the walls? They could not decide. One member strongly dissented, and we can provide you with his dissenting opinion. The other two referred it back to a director within the Ministry of the Environment for a decision.

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Our request to you for a federal EA is based on the inadequacy, the limited scope, of the provincial assessment. Among other avoided issues, it didn't look at surface water impacts at all as regards federal or aboriginal interests in land downstream or transboundary impacts on Lake Timiskaming.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Ayotte, are you giving a quick presentation now?


Mr. Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte (Chairman and Spokesperson, Comité pour la sauvegarde du lac Témiscamingue): Yes. I am sharing my time with Mr. Bélanger.

I would like to thank the chair and the committee for this opportunity to express myself on this application.

My name is Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte. I am a resident of Quebec and I live in the village of Laverlochère, in the County of Témiscamingue. This village is located 90 kilometres from the Adams Mine.

I am the chairman and spokesperson for the Comité pour la sauvegarde du lac Témiscamingue and I have signed the petition requesting a federal environmental assessment of the landfill project at the Adams Mine.

Whereas I am presenting a petition signed by 5,200 citizens from the Quebec County of Témiscamingue, in which they express their concern regarding this somewhat experimental project; whereas 700 people came to support the committee's actions to oppose this project—which potentially can alter our quality of life—at a meeting in Ville-Marie; and whereas there is commercial fishing on Lake Temiskaming and I was asked to represent a Mr. Denis Lampron, a commercial fisherman from Saint-Bruno-de-Guigues, who catches 30,000 pounds of fresh fish for sale from the lake, and whose work could be jeopardized if it were to be polluted in any way; I request, on my own behalf, as a Canadian citizen and chair of the committee, and on behalf of the people who signed petitions, that the federal environment minister conduct a full environmental assessment in order to evaluate the impact that this project might have on our transboundary environment, on the quality of both the soil and the surface water and groundwater.

This request is made pursuant to subsection 46(1) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Thank you for your attention.

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.


Ms. Lloyd is the coordinator from Northwatch.

Ms. Brennain Lloyd (Coordinator, Northwatch; Campaign Against the Adams Mine): Thank you, Madam Chair. We're here this evening to speak to the petition we submitted formally to the Minister of the Environment on September 20 and to the supporting brief. I believe the clerk has provided you with copies of our letter and an executive summary of that letter and supporting brief.

There have been a number of issues. It has been a project with a lengthy history—11 years of history. We've been involved throughout that period. A number of issues have been raised for you this evening, and we could spend a great deal of time on the details of those, and perhaps we can go into some of those details in questions. But for our few minutes this evening we wish to focus on the federal responsibilities and the federal role with respect to this project and its assessment.

As you've heard, there are three triggers under the federal Environmental Assessment Act that apply to this project. The first two are the discretionary triggers. They are triggers the minister must decide he has grounds to use, and the first is subsection 48(1) with respect to aboriginal interests. As the Campaign Against the Adams Mine


and the Comité pour la sauvegarde du lac Témiscamingue,


we have formally adopted the petition and submissions of the Timiskaming First Nation. The second is subsection 46(1) with respect to the transboundary impacts, and I'm going to speak for a few minutes about those.

These two triggers are called the discretionary triggers. There is also a mandatory trigger, in our view, under the Fisheries Act. The Fisheries Act is listed on the law list for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and there are fisheries impacts. There will be the deposition of a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish. That is the language of the Fisheries Act, and I will speak briefly to that as well.

I'll focus first on subsection 46(1), the transboundary impacts. As you've heard, the project is situated at the height of land in the watershed of Lake Timiskaming and the Ottawa River. The drainage patterns are such that all of the water—the surface water, the site water, and also the groundwater—report to the transboundary or the water system shared by Ontario and Quebec.

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The impacts on this shared watershed will have three pathways. The leachate or contaminant will reach that shared watershed through three different pathways. The first is the leachate release. You've heard in brief that the project proposal is to have all of the groundwater and precipitation move into a large open pit, which will be filled with garbage. The water will be sucked from that pit, given a minimal treatment, and released into the receiving water, into Moosehead Creek, Misema River, Blanche River, and so into that shared watershed of Lake Timiskaming and the Ottawa River. That leachate release is huge: 312 million litres of contaminated water each year; 83 billion litres over the lifetime of this operation.

To give you just a few examples of some of the problems with that leachate, the proponent looked at only 17 contaminants. An expert to the public liaison committee during the 1995 phase, Dr. Fred Lee, identified contaminants in the tens of thousands, or stated to that committee in his expert statement, and also I believe to the Timiskaming First Nation, that contaminants were in the tens of thousands. This proponent looked at 17 contaminants.

I'll give two examples. Chromium, one of the substances looked at, is expected to be 20 times that allowed under the Canadian water quality guidelines. Cadmium will also be in excess of the provincial water quality guidelines. You may know that cadmium is a persistent toxic substance. It bio-accumulates. It bio-accumulates in fish and is a hazardous material, and it is certainly a substance of great concern to those committed to the protection of that watershed and who rely on that watershed.

The second pathway is through what's called a waste mound. The pit will be filled with garbage. When the pit is filled, the garbage will keep going up another 55 metres above the water table. From that waste mound, we're being asked to rely on a thin drainage layer to prevent the outward migration of contaminants, again reporting to that watershed shared by Ontario and Quebec.

The third is design failure. We've heard that all the water is to move in; none of the water is to move out. In fact, there is a variety of expert opinion on this. This is the very matter that the environmental assessment panel was unable to decide on. Their conclusion was that they needed more information. They got more information, two more test drills. Unfortunately, it didn't come to them; it came back to the Ministry of the Environment. Expert opinion says this demonstrates that there is a high probability of water leachate moving out through the pit walls.

Those are the three pathways to the surface water. They're significant. It's not a light concern we bring to you.

I have only a moment, so I'll say very briefly that the mandatory trigger is with respect to the Fisheries Act. In 1997, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did provide written comment to the Ministry of the Environment and they did acknowledge that Moosehead Creek and Misema River were both fisheries. They did acknowledge that there would be a deposition of a deleterious substance to those fisheries, but they stated that, based on the information provided, the proposal does not state that an activity will be undertaken in this area that will result in a harmful alteration; therefore no Fisheries Act authorization pursuant to subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act will be required. Because the proponent did not state to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not act.

I put to you that there is a serious impact on fisheries. There is a responsibility of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and so there is a mandatory trigger for at least a screening, I think, in combination with the discretionary triggers. What's required is a reference to a panel review.

Thank you.

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The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Our witness list, then, will be Mr. Brien, Mr. Gruending, Mr. Herron.


Mr. Pierre Brien: Do you think that science never makes mistakes? What you are telling us today is that you are certain that there will never be any risk involved, either now, or in 25 years, or in 50 years. You are actually able to claim that.


Mr. Steve Usher: In the case of this landfill, this is not a landfill on a clay liner, where water wants to move out and is held back by a liner; this is a landfill where the law of gravity forces the water in. So I can with certainty state yes, sir, in this case.


Mr. Pierre Brien: You appear to me to have unbounded optimism. Madam Chair, with all due respect, there are two things that I distrust in life: biblical doctrine and scientific doctrine, and I am wary of both.

I would like to quote you, Mr. McGuinty. I listened to you during the press conference held today and you said, in reply to a question about local support:


“I believe, certainly in the Kirkland Lake area, Englehart area, and New Liskeard area, we have a very informed group of people. The opposition is coming from outside of that, and I think they are just trying to impact on the politics of trying to stop this contract from being ratified. It's that simple.”


That is what you said this afternoon. I went to Earlton this summer and I saw 2,000 people in an arena who opposed the project. I saw 700 others at the wharf in Ville-Marie last week. There are 5,000 people out of a population of 15,000 in my region who signed the petition, which was also signed by many people on the Ontario side. Is that your definition of a nice welcome from the host?


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: First, I'll clarify a mistake I made there. I said New Liskeard. I should have said Larder Lake—and you've heard from the reeve.

I do not in any way suggest that there is not opposition to this project, and I don't suggest in any way that there's not a large opposition. What I am stating very clearly, though, is that over the last ten years we have worked extremely hard with the communities of Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake, and Englehart. I have no hesitation to say that we have an informed population there. There are still people in those communities, yes, who have concerns and who are against this landfill. But I have no hesitation to say that the majority of the people in that area who we deal with on a regular basis do not have the same types of concerns that are being expressed by the individuals here, say.


Mr. Pierre Brien: I am happy to hear you say that, because there will be municipal elections throughout Ontario on November 13. Since you are sure that you have solid local support, just as you are convinced of the technical merits of your project, can you promise us today that you will not sign any contract until, first, the federal agency has completed its work and, second, until the results of the municipal elections are known, so that you are certain that the host localities welcome the project? Can you make that promise to us this evening?


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: We can't make that commitment here tonight basically for one specific reason. We have been in a two-year process with the City of Toronto. We are entering into a contract that requires us to provide a service by the fall of the year 2002. We need to proceed, to begin work on that site, literally immediately. If we don't do that, we will not be able to fulfil the terms of our contract; and we would perhaps suffer penalties, or perhaps we'd suffer a cancellation of the contract. So we're just not in a position to do that.


Mr. Pierre Brien: So you are telling me that if the City of Toronto does not sign the contract with you on October 3, technically, you will never be able to comply with the schedule that has been set. That is what you are telling us. If, by chance, Toronto gave you the contract on December 2, you would say that you could not get the work done within the prescribed time.

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Mr. Gordon McGuinty: We're assuming, based on your question, that Toronto is going to sign. If Toronto signs that contract, we do need to be underway on that site and mobilize within 30 days to meet the timeframe necessary to honour the contract.


Mr. Pierre Brien: I have one final question. What is the estimated value of the total contract with the three municipalities, York, Peel and Durham?


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: Peel has not opted in at this point in time.

For York, Durham, and Toronto, the total amount of waste there is approximately 1.8 million tonnes amongst all of those municipalities. Approximately 500,000 tonnes of that will be shipped to the United States. The 1.3 million tonnes that are left would be contracted with Rail Cycle North. The number that Metropolitan Toronto has disclosed is $51 per tonne for the entire tonnage. It's almost a tie between us and the American company.


Mr. Pierre Brien: So we're talking about over a billion dollars. Over 20 years, it would amount to more than one billion dollars.


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: We're talking a substantial amount of money, yes, sir.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'm just wondering if any of the other witnesses have any comments or responses to this particular exchange in the last few minutes.

Monsieur Bélanger.

Mr. Pierre Bélanger: Merci, madame.

As to whether there is substantial support or opposition in the population in Timiskaming, in both Quebec and Ontario, the list of opponents of the project is extremely long, and it grows by the day. Suffice it to say that 20 municipalities on the Ontario side have recorded their objections and have requested federal Minister Anderson to intervene with a federal liaise. Twenty more municipalities in northern Ontario have now signed on to this opposition. These include, by the way, municipalities along the Ottawa River, such as Pembroke, and other municipalities in the Ottawa Valley; all of the municipalities unanimously on the Quebec side; la Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux; CRDAT, which is the regional economic development committee on the Quebec side; tourism development committees; 8,000 petitioners on the Ontario side; and 5,000 now on the Quebec side. This list is growing, and I won't bore you with more of those details.

I would just like to state, however, that we're missing something here tonight in discussing how much public opposition there is. It is there, it's real, and it's documented and measured. It has been an issue in our dealings with Toronto, but that's not an issue in your case, I believe. The issue is that, fundamentally, if we bring it back to what the proposition is, this is a novel experimental concept to handle solid waste from a municipality.

We circulated a document to you that illustrates that this is a pit that has 300 feet of water in it. It is a pit in which we have introduced significant new information from a geologist who worked the pit while it was being pumped out. It needed to be pumped on a steady basis. This has been dismissed, of course, by the proponents. The man was only a geologist for 30 years in that area, with a Ph.D., and an Ontario government employee. During all of that time he had written down his opposition to this.

What this is is a proposal to put garbage into a leaking environment, which is contrary to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment guidelines and any other guidelines in North America for dumps. This is a proposal to have groundwater leach through the garbage and clean it and then clean the water and return it to the environment. It's a proposal to voluntarily pollute groundwater to the tune of roughly 190,000 gallons of water a day for 120 years. That is the axis of the toxic phase of the project. Then for a subsequent roughly 880 years, a natural drainage of the site will accomplish the rest as water moves through, because the proponent acknowledges that water now enters the pit and flows through it.

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It's an astounding engineering concept. It may have a chance to work, but we think.... And there's no liner. The liner that's proposed is a 15-foot-deep gravel pie crust around the pit so that water precipitates more rapidly to the bottom. Perhaps, if you want more technical explanations of the risks involved with this, our own consultant here and local expert, Stan Gorzalinscky, can speak to that.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

I would ask if Mr. McGuinty or Mr. Usher has something to say in response.

Mr. Steve Usher: Madam Chair, I don't know where to begin.

The pit has water in it; it's a mine. The water table around the mine is up near the ground surface. As you've seen in the photograph, the water level in the pit is 100 metres below that, and there is indeed 100 metres of water in the pit. The water pressure from 100 metres of water—think of 100 metres of water pushing inwards on the pit. The mine cannot leak out.

What I heard a moment ago was that they had to pump the pit to keep it dry. That's as clear an indication as any that water flows in. The gravel blanket, described as a pie crust five metres wide—it's as wide as these tables—surrounds the waste. The groundwater does not go through the garbage; the groundwater comes in, it reaches that gravel blanket, and it goes to the bottom. What creates leachate in this landfill is the rainwater that falls in and percolates through the waste. This joins the groundwater at the bottom, it's diluted. This is pumped out and treated.

I have heard in the press, and it was alluded to tonight, that the water leaks in one side of the pit and comes out the other. That's physically impossible. I heard a very simple experiment of pushing a bucket with holes in it into your bathtub full of water, you will never see the water come in one side of that bucket and go out the other. That's a simple diagram we can draw in our minds.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gruending, please.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to take a second to respond briefly to Mr. Lincoln. I apologize for mentioning anything about members' whereabouts tonight. Second, based on your own incisive and knowledgeable questioning, you may even agree that it was a good idea to have this meeting.

I would like to address a question to Mr. McGuinty. It seems that this was not Toronto's first choice of how to do things. The people along the way, in places like Gravenhurst and Huntsville, seem to be concerned, at least from newspaper reports I've read. We've heard tonight about what seems like widespread opposition in the area, notwithstanding comments by one of the reeves, which I respect, but it seems that most of these people are opposed.

The simple question I have is, if the people in Toronto didn't really seem to be convinced that it was the way to go, at least in the city, but got forced into it, if the people along the railway—which is something we haven't talked about tonight—are concerned and the people in the area are very concerned, why would you want to do it at the end of the day?

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: My first simple answer is that I've been at this for 10 years and I categorically will state that we have the most progressive waste management system, if Toronto opts into doing this, combined with the safest landfill.

In terms of your question about Toronto's options, Toronto has been looking at this project since 1990. They actually had an option on the site for five years and decided then, though, to go private sector rather than continue public sector ownership. They've gone out in the last four years to two different tender processes to the private sector to find an answer. As for where they are today, as I believe Mr. Garrett alluded to, there are no answers for the City of Toronto in the province of Ontario, with the exception of two.

One, they expand the Keele Valley landfill, which they acknowledge—and I think everybody does—has reached capacity. Yes, they brought back an option to try to extend it for a couple of more years to buy some time, but that's what they did back in 1996. They looked for a long-term option and they extended it. Keele Valley has reached its limit.

The only other alternative the City of Toronto has, and the regions, is massive shipment of waste to Michigan. If the Adams Mine does not proceed, if Toronto does not sign the contract, if the federal minister, in his wisdom, decides to put an environmental assessment on this project and delay it, the City of Toronto and the regions can only ship 1.8 million tonnes down Highway 401 and across the bridge into Michigan. They have no other option, and they've been at it for 10 years trying to find one.

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Mr. Dennis Gruending: How far is it to ship—

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): [Inaudible—Editor]...Mr. Gruending, and we'll add some time. Ms. Lloyd wanted to make a comment as well.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: Very good.

Ms. Brennain Lloyd: If I could respond briefly, I think it's absolutely incorrect to say that Toronto has no other options. I live a long way from Toronto, but I've spent too much time in Toronto committee rooms over the last many years following their processes, which invariably seem to try to take them north. They have an alternative.

Their first alternative is in terms of diversion. Toronto's own consultants in 1995 provided them with a report that said they could achieve between 80% and 85% diversion within a five-year timeframe. That five-year timeframe is up. They're at 24%.

In terms of disposal options, it's true their request for proposals didn't give them a huge, long list of options, but it certainly gave them more options than Mr. McGuinty has just informed you of. There were six proposals in response to their request for disposal sites. One of them was a Rail Cycle North option. Four others remained on the table through to the end; two were for Michigan, and two were for southwestern Ontario. One, a fifth option for the Ridge landfill, was withdrawn because Canadian Waste Services, who are in the process of in some manner buying out Mr. McGuinty's interests in Rail Cycle North, had also bought Ridge, and so the Competition Bureau intervened and said it could not go forward. I can't give you the details of that this evening, but I could certainly provide you with the details. So the Ridge landfill had been available, but was withdrawn only because of a business decision of Canadian Waste Services, Mr. McGuinty's partner.

There are, I believe, 176 million tonnes of landfill capacity available in southern Ontario today. Toronto has lots of options, both in terms of diversion and in terms of disposal. If their process doesn't get them the answers they want, perhaps the problem is with their process. But the options and the opportunities are available to them.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gruending, we'll give you two more minutes.

Mr. Dennis Gruending: I would like to thank you very much. That was good on both sides.

I would like to ask a question of Mr. Bernier. Two witnesses now have talked about subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act as being something you should consider in deciding about an environmental assessment. There was a letter, as was mentioned, from the environment ministry to Ontario in 1997. I don't think your brief to us—I may have missed it—mentions fisheries as a trigger, as the word has been used tonight. My question is, would you now look at the Fisheries Act as a possible trigger in an environmental assessment?

Mr. Paul Bernier: In the work we've done so far in response to the petition from the Timiskaming First Nation, we have canvassed quite a number of departments, asking each, have you exercised a decision, or more broadly, using the words of the act, a power, duty, or function? That includes something specifically that triggers the Environmental Assessment Act. One of those departments was Fisheries and Oceans, and they have not thus far. If they were to conclude that they had to in the future, then as I explained in my brief, that would make it impossible for the Minister of the Environment to then exercise any of the transboundary provisions of the act.

The transboundary provisions of the act can only be exercised by the minister if there is no exercise of a power, duty, or function of any kind at the federal level in relation to the project. So in that scenario, if Fisheries were to say “Well, yes, we do”, with the information we have now, we think we would have to issue an authorization under subsection 35(2). Then that eliminates the possibility of transboundary provisions being applied. It would then, however, as you indicated, lead to a situation where Fisheries could say, well, okay, we have to do a screening in relation to this project—under the other provisions of the act, not in relation to the transboundary provisions of the act.

• 2300

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Ms. Lloyd, quickly, please.

Ms. Brennain Lloyd: As I understand the act—and certainly Mr. Bernier spends more time with it than I do—it is a decision within the responsible authority as to whether it is subject to a screening or a comprehensive study. The minister can then refer a comprehensive study to a panel review. So it's not simply a screening and that's it.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): It's not just limited to a screening. It's subject to the minister's discretion as to what—

Mr. Paul Bernier: In this instance I have not looked at whether such a project would fit within the regulation, which is known as the conference of study list regulation; whether it would be by definition a project that would come under that list. If it did, then yes, it would be a matter for the Minister of the Environment to be seized of it. If it did not, it would merely be a project that would be looked at at the level of the screening, with no option to go to a conference of study.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron: In my previous life—that would be only three and a half years ago—I was a project manager for large-scale industrial projects. I remember being at the table, and any time you wanted to get something done, if both parties wanted to do it, you would get it done.

In that context, let's just say Toronto's best option, or maybe even only option, is to take a look at the Adams Mine site. Let's just say again, a little further down, that Toronto is amenable to not signing off until the federal government made its ruling whether they were going to do a review or not, which could be a matter of weeks or so. If they were amenable to extending the timeframe by a couple of months, the time pressures you spoke about would be changed.

I guess the point I'm making is if Toronto said “If the feds are going to take a look at this, we are amenable to moving our contract back by a period of time”, and if your science behind this—actually, I'm okay with science and the Bible—holds up at that point to actually provide a trigger, there's no harm here, we're all adults, we can just push that back and wait for Mr. Bernier to go through the different permutations and combinations about whether he has some work to do or not.

So from the business perspective, if Toronto says they want to hold off a month, that's not a big deal to you guys, is it?

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: I think Mr. Garrett—and I don't remember exactly how he said it. Their concern is that they have about 18 months before Keele Valley will basically close. They have a problem there. In terms of contracting with anybody, our timeframe is a little tighter perhaps than going to Michigan, because Michigan only has to manufacture tons of trailers and trucks to go down Highway 401. We have to build a landfill.

I think the concern is that after two years of a very extended process, any ongoing delays will impact on their ability to close Keele Valley.

Mr. John Herron: I guess the point I'm making is that if they said, listen, we may have to make an interim intervention to adjust the 30-day delay, it might actually have a detrimental effect on it. But if Toronto is on board at delaying for 30 days for this situation to get sorted out in a proper way, and if it is their best deal, and you are interested in doing the deal as well, there's no harm in waiting 30 days to do that. Would that be a—

• 2305

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: I think the issue then will come clearly to what Mr. Bernier's advice is to the minister. If Mr. Bernier's advice is that a panel and a full environmental assessment is required, then Toronto is out of luck in terms of using the Adams Mine within the timeframe they require.

I don't disagree with your business case if it's limited to perhaps a 30-day timeframe. That may be possible. But certainly we can't, I think from both their perspective and ours—from our perspective to meet the terms of the contract so that we wouldn't be under any penalties and be ready to provide the service. We would have a problem. Again, I'm not trying to duck your question, because I appreciate your business case, but it comes back to what the minister might decide.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you. That's a pretty straight answer.

A very short question is that although we were trying to be more judicious in terms of who is in attendance here, sometimes we little itty-bitty parties can actually slog it out. Some parties aren't able to—

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Herron, we don't need to discuss this—

Mr. John Herron: Sorry, back to the question.

If subsection 35(2) of the Fisheries Act were actually evoked, for the Fisheries Act to apply to a proposal the fish habitat in question must support either directly or indirectly, or have the potential to support, a commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery. If that were the case, if that does become a trigger, are you saying you wouldn't look at the peripheral issues with respect to transboundary, and the first nations issue as well? You would just have a linear focus and you wouldn't go out on the other two angles once you started getting into the review? It's all or nothing?

Mr. Paul Bernier: The scenario you identify is one where the section of the Fisheries Act referred to as subsection 35(2) would be invoked. If that were the case, if Fisheries said we must apply that section of the act, which deals with the harmful alteration and destruction of fish habitat, then Fisheries and Oceans would be empowered under the act to assess the project it scoped in that situation. The Minister of the Environment would not be empowered in that scenario to invoke the transboundary provisions. You would have a situation where Fisheries would be looking at the project; Fisheries would be looking at the factors required to be assessed in its assessment. It would be in Fisheries' court in that scenario, so we would not be doing the assessment, no.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Pratt, please.

Mr. David Pratt: Thank you, Madam Chair.

My questions are to Mr. Usher. I'm trying to understand how the rules have been applied in connection with the Adams site. I asked questions earlier about the situation we experienced in Ottawa-Carleton in terms of what has been referred to as engineered landfill. I'm wondering if this type of landfill we're seeing with the Adams Mine...if the topology was approved for operation before the Adams application came, before this proposal came to fruition. Was that legal in Ontario before the Adams example?

Mr. Steve Usher: I'm not clear on the question. I think you're asking me if the Trail Road landfill was approved...?

Mr. David Pratt: No, no. We know that the Trail Road landfill site is a fully engineered landfill site—

Mr. Steve Usher: Yes.

Mr. David Pratt: —with leachate collection, etc., the whole nine yards. What I'm asking is whether or not the Adams site, with the type of system you described in terms of the water coming in, was legal in Ontario before the Adams site was even talked about.

• 2310

Mr. Steve Usher: Yes, I can answer that directly. Certainly, it was. The Halton landfill in the Region of Halton, west of Toronto, was approved in 1989. It's a hydraulic trap landfill. The City of Peterborough landfill is a hydraulic trap landfill, part of it. The Taro landfill in Stoney Creek is a hydraulic trap landfill. These are all on the same principle of inward flow.

Mr. David Pratt: The same principle, but is it the same geology?

Mr. Steve Usher: The Taro landfill is a fractured rock environment, yes, but I would like to add one thing. Ontario recently added new standards for landfill design. Under their environmental assessment process, you can choose the standard design and you are not subjected to the hearing process as long as you meet certain criteria. If you choose a design that is different, it has to be better, and you have to substantiate it through an environmental assessment, which is what the Adams Mine did. So the short answer is yes, they followed the laws and regulations.

Mr. David Pratt: Okay. What concerns me about the Adams Mine, though, is the type of geology. What concerns me is the history of the site, in terms of it having been an iron mine, with blasting having taken place for thirty years. Predicting the water flows in that sort of situation becomes, I would think, at least—again as a layman—problematic. I think we all agree as a general principle that water's going to flow downhill. However, once it's into a site, predicting whether or not it will flow from the bottom of that site into other areas, again depending on the geology, is problematic.

What sort of computer modelling did you do, or did you do any computer modelling, in terms of the analysis of the water flows? And what was that computer modelling based on?

Mr. Steve Usher: Please recall that when I answer these things, I am answering them from the perspective of having reviewed the work done by Golder Associates and having reviewed indeed their modelling. The design concept does not depend on groundwater modelling with a computer. In fact we pointed out at the very beginning that they have shown there's inward flow from all directions, but they hadn't drilled underneath the pit. They drilled a hole underneath the pit based on our request—for the PLC, that was.

Mr. David Pratt: PLC?

Mr. Steve Usher: The public liaison committee in 1995. The hearing panel put a condition that they drill two more holes under the pit for the same reasons, and the water levels in those pits too were above the water level in the mine. So every time they've gone back and got more information, it's shown the same thing.

With regard to the blasting—and we all have a feeling that blasting cracks rocks, and it must be a jumbled-up mess in there—the pit has taken 13 years to fill only one-fifth of its volume, of its size. The amount of water available would take 50 years to fill it. This is a very slow rate. It's about 6 litres a second. With all those fractures and blasting damage and the like—and incidentally, blasting damage doesn't go far back in the rock, that's well known—the water that comes in.... If you back-calculate it out, that rock, including the fractures, is tighter than any clay landfill liner in North America.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gorzalinscky, did you have some comments here?

Mr. Stan Gorzalinscky: Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Usher to clarify a statement he made during his statement. Mr. Usher made a statement that the two bore holes that were drilled as part of the provincial EA hearing outcome showed water levels that were in excess of the level of the water in the pit. While that stands to be true, he forgot to mention that those two bore holes showed water levels that were less than a phase of the landfill's life. I'll back up a little bit; it's quite late.

There's a gravity drainage phase, and the leachate will be allowed to rise in the pit up to a certain elevation. In order for inward flow to continue during that period, the groundwater still has to move up through the pit floor. These two bore holes that were drilled were to prove that the water pressure underneath the pit was actually high enough to maintain this inward flow.

• 2315

So in essence they had to develop a head that was greater than the head of the gravity drainage phase. It's a comparison in numbers, really. What happened is the first hole that was drilled.... Going off memory now, out of 13 results, none were greater than the head during gravity drainage phase. The second hole had 14 results; eight were only greater than the gravity drainage phase. What that indicates is during the gravity drainage phase, you will have outward flow from the pit.

I'm not an expert. That's what I've deduced from crunching the data.

I would like Mr. Usher to clarify that, and after he clarifies it, I would like to read a statement to the committee, if I may.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): All right. Mr. Usher.

Mr. Steve Usher: Certainly. I'd be more than happy to clarify that.

The intent of those bore holes was to confirm that there was an inward water pressure pushing in. It was not to confirm that the water level was higher than that gravity drain. When that pit is drawn down, when it's pumped out, those water levels will also go down, and they will stay above the pit. It can't do anything else but that. When the pit fills up with water in 120 years, those water levels will also go up.

I'm not asking you to believe me, but I am telling you that when they pump down the pit, as mandated by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, they have to monitor those holes to see if what I just said is true or not. It's not what I'm saying; it was put forward by the proponent's consultants. It was reviewed by me and I agreed with it, and it was reviewed by the Ministry of the Environment and they agreed with it.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Gorzalinscky.

Mr. Stan Gorzalinscky: What I am about to read to you came from a Dr. Paul Bowen. He is a hydrogeologist with equivalent credentials to Mr. Usher. He's had 30 years in the field of landfill design. I'll just read it verbatim. It's not very long. It says:

    Having regard for the results of the two new boreholes, I cannot conclude without reservation that the recorded groundwater levels will sustain hydraulic containment in the South Pit such that the environment will be protected during both the pumping and gravity drainage phases. To the contrary, it is my opinion that the new borehole results confirm the presence of conductive bedrock structures which would cause or permit the outward escape of leachate from the South Pit during the gravity drainage phase.

This evidence has never been reviewed in a public forum. It was presented after the provincial EA hearings.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Bélanger.

Mr. Pierre Bélanger: Madam Chair, just briefly, the project requires such perfection in the mechanical function. Remember, it requires pumping for 120 years and cleaning of that water before discharge. I just want to reassure the committee that they are not facing hysterical citizens who are indulging in the old NIMBY syndrome. It is not because we fear garbage because it's labelled Toronto on the bags. It is because we fear the design of this project, the unorthodox design, the untried, the experimental and hypothetical approach of this.

I just want to quote the engineers who have designed this for Mr. McGuinty, Golder Associates. In 1991—I'm reading from the Ontario Hansard, and I can leave this with the clerk—they had this to say. It was the same consultant who worked for Guelph council on a proposed dump that was being suggested for a fractured bedrock area. They had this to say about fractured bedrock areas that could have proposed dumps on them: “Contaminant migration within these aquifers would pose a significant risk to the groundwater resource.” It is hard “ predict contaminant arrival times and to implement remedial contingency measures...”.

This is the difficulty with this type of dump. It has no plan B. If it fails, there is no earth that you can drill and find the plume of leachate moving out. It's moving out through cracks at a rapid speed and it cannot be remedied. If it fails, there is no plan B. That's the significant thing.

• 2320

They conclude by saying:

    ...contingency measures, if warranted, cannot be accomplished to the same level of confidence as for porous media (sand, gravel, silt or clay). Therefore, the siting of a landfill in an area that potentially could result in contaminant migration in fractured rock is considered unacceptable.

This is the consultant, and this is 1991, when working for Guelph council. That's his opinion when working in the last years for Mr. McGuinty and Notre Development. He finds this is an ideal receptacle for waste.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Is there a response here?

Mr. Steve Usher: Yes, please. The comparison of this landfill to a landfill in Guelph is not fair. It's very different. This is a large, tight—demonstrated tight—pit. There are no aquifers nearby. The nearest well is seven kilometres away. There is no comparison. I don't believe that consultant, Golder, has been inconsistent in their opinion because they were looking at a totally different site.

With respect to the comment that there is no plan B, I believe there's a large monitoring and contingency working group, which I was a part of, that has designed those very contingency and remedial actions and the monitoring to trigger them, and the funds have been set aside to do that work. So there is a plan B.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. McGuinty.

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: Very briefly, I'm not sure Mr. Bowen has a doctorate or has the same qualifications as Mr. Usher. The evidence that was suggested has been reviewed, and as Mr. Gorzalinscky stated, it was opinion evidence without any factual documentation to back it up.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Lincoln, are you ready to ask your questions?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Yes.

First of all, I'd like to make a comment about this being the last possible hope for Toronto. Twelve years ago Montreal wanted to do exactly the same thing. Lavalin had a project to buy a big mine just north of the Outaouais, put a landfill there, and bring it by train. This was supposed to be the last possible hope for Montreal. Thank the Lord, we killed it. Montreal has somehow managed for the last 12 years. What's been most interesting lately is that Montreal, because of its garbage problem, has passed a bylaw to increase recycling on tenancies. Recycling has tripled in the last year or two. So there's always a way.

I disagree with Mr. Bélanger on one point. I believe a community should take care of its own garbage. I really believe that a city like Toronto, rich and technologically proficient, must find another way.

What really bothers me here—and I would like to get a comment from Mr. McGuinty, Mr. Usher, and the others—is that we seem to have contradictory messages on every point. Mr. Bélanger and others tell us that the assessment in Ontario referred only to one technical question about the engineering design and the safety regarding leachate, that no other issues were examined, and that there was a deadline set by the minister of 15 days. We hear that the environmental assessment, on the other hand, took weeks to do, that it took care of everything else, that it looked at the aboriginal issues, it looked at the watershed—it looked at everything else. We hear from one side, as Mr. Brien said, this certainty, this guarantee, this sort of almost dogma that nothing can happen; it's as safe as a house. On the other side we have another expert here. We have Dr. Bowen. We have Dr. Lee, a consultant from California. Dr. Lee was very critical of the leachate containment system proposed by Notre Development, and he wrote:

    We recommend the public vigorously oppose the approach being taken by Notre Development to the development of this landfill as insufficient to protect the communities' interests.

• 2325

So the problem is we're faced with totally contradictory messages that lead us to a lot of doubt in our minds. I would say if I have doubt.... Mrs. Lloyd tells us that Toronto has several alternatives, and we are faced with listening to two messages. One is very sure: it's fine, it's safe, it's wonderful, it's just great; and we need it right away, otherwise Toronto will collapse under its garbage. The other side says, no, there are problems; there are other alternatives; the environmental assessment was not carried out well, or it was very insufficient.

Then when Mr. Usher tells me this will be subject to provincial water monitoring standards—I wrote it as you said it—then I'm really scared, because lately when I hear about what happened to Walkerton, what happened to all these inspectors who used to be there and are no longer there, then I get very scared. I think to myself, if this is your guarantee of success, well, then we had better look at it again.

So I wondered if you could comment on these tremendous contradictions to make us feel more comfortable with one side or the other.

Ms. Brennain Lloyd: If I may begin, Mr. Lincoln, I think perhaps what is required is a federal environmental assessment. I think it is a very complicated issue. We have 11 years of history here, and I do think it's perhaps unfair to ask you to try to sort this out in an evening's time.

With respect to the questions about the environmental assessment, I think when the proponent tells you there's been a full environmental assessment.... In 1995 the City of Toronto began an environmental assessment process. They produced a stack of documents this high. The minister pre-approved the Adams Mine and referred a single technical question to the environmental assessment hearing. That's the difference. Yes, they produced a stack of documents, but yes, the hearing was restricted to one technical question. So although we did make written submissions, written comments on a range of issues, there was only a public review on that one technical question.

So perhaps that clears up what may seem to be a discrepancy. I think in fact the proponent wishes you to see it one way. We think it's very important that you understand there was only a public hearing on that one technical question. The minister gave it a timeline, a schedule, which resulted in only 15 days of hearing time being possible in order for the hearing panel to report to the minister by their deadline.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. McGuinty, please.

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: The Adams Mine did have a full environmental assessment under the laws of the province of Ontario. As I indicated earlier, we studied every technical discipline. There was full public disclosure on all of those disciplines. The public had the ability to input into our studies and the ministry on every discipline relative to the issue that went before the hearing.

The minister canvassed the community on what basically were the issues of concern to them. I don't have the exact number, but I would suggest to you that 95% of the public were concerned about groundwater contamination. That is the issue, along with our ability to collect it, and the structure, and whether or not that pit leaks, that went to the Environmental Assessment Board hearing.

On the issue of the fairness of that hearing, I should point out that the opposition had full legal representation, and as a group we basically said—including the proponent—to the board that we didn't agree with the timeframe the Minister of the Environment had put on this hearing. The Environmental Assessment Board went back to the Minister of the Environment of Ontario and said, the people up to the hearing want more time and we need more time to properly evaluate our decision. The Minister of the Environment of Ontario changed the date so that there was full and unanimous agreement on the timeframe needed to get through that hearing.

So in answer to Mr. Lincoln's question—and I appreciate your dilemma—I will only say, from the perspective of a proponent after ten years, the difference is that over this period of time we've had to prove over and over again what we've had to say. Although I respect the people's right to disagree, they provide opinion; they do not provide proof.

• 2330

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Short comments, Mr. Usher and Mr. Ayotte, please.

Mr. Steve Usher: Very briefly, I think I can help you with the reassurance about the provincial standards. I can't speak to Walkerton because I'm not involved with it. The situation is very different. That is a water supply; this is a landfill. The provincial standards I refer to are the water quality standards. Those have to be followed, and they had to be followed in Walkerton as well. Those haven't changed, so they still have to meet that.

With regards to staffing, there's a full-time inspector from the Ministry of the Environment mandated by the certificate of approval to be on this site seven days a week.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Ayotte.

Mr. Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte: I have a simple question. Maybe everybody's going to laugh about it, but it's for Mr. McGuinty.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Through the chair, please.

Mr. Pierre-Alexandre Ayotte: Okay, yes.

The question is, what is the safest way to get rid of 26 million tonnes of garbage, any kind of garbage: hydraulic containment 300 feet under the water table, recycling it, or burning it? That's the simple question. You don't need experts to answer that. I just want to know.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. McGuinty, you can choose to answer that or not.

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: In a world of Utopia, we'd all like to recycle or divert 100% of it. I won't get into the merits of incineration versus landfill other than to say we absolutely have proven that the Adams Mine landfill is the safest landfill we can develop in the province of Ontario.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Madame Girard-Bujold.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I would like to ask Mr. Usher a question. I'm concerned about the quality of the water you are going to be pumping in this process that you explained to us. You say that Toronto is going to sort its garbage and tell you what it is sending you, and that your pumping process will put filtered water into a lake close to the mine.

You are telling everyone that you are sure that nothing in your process will be harmful to the environment. I would like to know why you are so sure about your process and why you are telling us that all the opponents are wrong and that you are right.


Mr. Steve Usher: The water that comes out of that plant will have to meet the provincial water quality standards, which are the allowable concentrations of whichever parameter in the water. Simply put, they have to meet certain standards in the water. If they don't meet those standards, they are not allowed to discharge. They have to monitor the water, sample it, and demonstrate that they are doing that.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: We were saying earlier that if Toronto gives you more than a certain number of tons of garbage, you are going to pay it a royalty. I would like the developer to confirm for me whether or not that is true, and to tell me whether there are penalties in the contract if Toronto were to decide after a certain number of years, say five years, to withdraw from the project, because the conditions that were supposed to have been met were not met. Does the contract provide for any penalties?

I would like to know what penalties would be applied against Toronto. We should know that. Can we get a copy of the wording of the conditions of your contract? There are all sorts of assumptions made in drawing up a contract. You must certainly have thought about some assumptions. I would like to know whether or not this is the case. What will happen if Toronto does not give you the tonnage you need and withdraws from the contract? I would also like to know if you will be giving royalties to Toronto if the city gives you more garbage.

• 2335


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: Regarding the royalty that was mentioned earlier, basically that is a situation where we have agreed to pay the City of Toronto a royalty of $1.50 a tonne on the first 10 years if they don't supply us with 13 million tonnes. The rationale there ties in with their intent to divert as much waste as possible. As you heard Mr. Garrett say, we don't have a fixed contract with them. We have a situation where we're in partnership with them to ensure they try to divert as much as possible, because there's no penalty to do that. What that's structured for is if they do increase their diversion rate and don't send us as much waste as they think they're going to, we would have additional capacity for other municipalities or customers in Ontario, and we have agreed to give them a royalty on that. What that does is actually reimburse to the City of Toronto some additional funds, as you heard Mr. Bacopoulos say, which they could then put into their waste management program.

On the second half of your question on penalties, etc., we have a very onerous performance contract with the City of Toronto. With regard to our bonding, our maintenance, and what we have to do, the obligation is on us to perform. As Mr. Garrett indicated, if at any time we would not be in compliance with our certificate of approval, the City of Toronto would have the ability to cancel that contract, and there would be no penalty on them to do that. The obligation is on us to perform and to meet all of the conditions of approval that the Minister of the Environment has put on us.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I see that you and your colleague, who is seated beside you, want to display transparency. Are you prepared to table here, this evening, the contract you have with Toronto? Second, I'm going to ask you the same question that I asked of the representatives of the City of Toronto. Will you demonstrate good faith and suspend your negotiations with Toronto until Mr. Bernier has submitted his report to the Minister of the Environment, and until the latter says whether or not he will be acting on the recommendations made by Mr. Bernier and his team?


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: On the first question, it is not within my ability to give you that contract. It is done by the legal department of the City of Toronto, so that request would have to go to them. It's not something I could undertake to give you.

With regard to the second question in terms of our suspending signing a contract and moving forward, as I indicated, at this point in time we're just not in a position to do that because of the performance requirements in the contract. We have no idea how long Mr. Bernier or the minister might take to make a decision.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Very, very briefly.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: If the City of Toronto agrees, would you be opposed to it tabling the contract?


Mr. Gordon McGuinty: That's a decision the City of Toronto will have to take. As Mr. Garrett said, one of their problems is that they have a timeframe on pricing, which we gave them almost a year ago, up to December 15, 2000. I can't answer that we would do that, because we may put ourselves in a position where our competitor may step in and take this contract for no reason. So I can't commit to that type of scenario, no.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

The chair would like to ask a couple of short questions. I hear a lot of faith in the provincial government, and I'm sure that in some respects people can have that faith. This is absolutely no reflection on the project that's under discussion tonight, but there is a dump in Lindsay that's leaking, and they've agreed to an expansion of that particular dump. Mr. Lincoln has pointed out the Walkerton situation, which is not exactly like your project, but it illustrates that the Ontario government has some environmental problems. The federal government is not immune to environmental problems, believe me. If you read any of the evidence of this committee, you'll know that its Liberal government members are amongst its staunchest critics.

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I would like to know what would happen if the company goes bankrupt or dissolves for some other reason. What happens to liability issues and maintenance of the property?

Mr. Gordon McGuinty: The Ontario government in the approval process has a very stringent perpetual care. During the operating lifespan of the landfill, we have to ensure through cash deposits, bonds, or letters of credit that enough money is set aside so that when the landfill closes, it wouldn't matter whether or not our company was still in business. There is enough money in a trust fund or secured by the Province of Ontario so that the leachate treatment and the pumping and everything can go on for the full 100 years or the 120 years that's required thereafter.

On that particular point, during the environmental assessment process, the economists from the province looked at this. They have come up with numbers. That also is something that the Environmental Assessment Board in Ontario wanted peer-reviewed by the community liaison committee before the province gave its certificate of approval. So it's a very onerous thing, and the money is set aside ahead of time.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

It's my understanding that the Ontario government has eliminated intervener funding in environmental assessment cases. I'm just wondering what kind of impact the elimination of this intervener funding has had for citizens' groups in this particular case.

Ms. Brennain Lloyd: The effect it had in this case is that we went with one witness and one witness only, and that was Paul Bowen, who has already been referred to. There was a cost award, so the proponent was required or agreed in advance of a cost award to pay that fee. The effect it had on the citizens' coalition, which included a number of groups, such as the farmers' groups, the environmental groups, and community organizations, is that we went with only a single witness in advance, anticipating that additional funds would not be available to us. That is the effect it had.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

We had a long discussion about public engagement in the endangered species legislation. I think public engagement in any kind of environmental legislation is very important.

I want to thank all of the witnesses who have appeared tonight, particularly Mr. Bernier. Was this a marathon committee sitting for you?

Mr. Paul Bernier: It's longer than the norm.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Longer than normal. The committee started meeting this morning at nine. I feel as if we have met for 24 hours today.

I want to thank all of the members for their wonderful cooperation tonight. Other than a small incident, we managed to get through very well.

I now adjourn this meeting.