We have quorum, so we will proceed.
Welcome to meeting No. 10 of the Legislative Committee on Bill .
We have four presenters today. From the David Suzuki Foundation, we have Dale Marshall, who is the policy analyst for the climate change program,
and from the Montreal Public Health Authority, we have Louis Drouin, who heads up the Urban Environment and Health Department, and Norman King, Epidemiologist, Urban Environment and Health Department.
We have Aaron Freeman, director of policy for Environmental Defence Canada, and, on teleconference, Dee Parkinson-Marcoux, as an individual.
As witnesses may know, we're looking for about a 10-minute presentation. Please try to keep it to 10 minutes. Please try to keep your remarks and responses to the questions relative to Bill and with the aim that we are trying to make it a stronger piece of legislation to accomplish the objectives of dealing with climate change and greenhouse gases and pollution.
Without further ado, let's start off with the David Suzuki Foundation. Mr. Marshall, the floor is yours for up to 10 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to this committee.
Obviously air pollution is a serious problem in Canada. Smog has important health impacts. Everyone has seen the studies of thousands of Canadians who have died prematurely from smog in Canada. One of the primary ways we can address smog and air pollution and the health problems that come from that is to actually address climate change.
Fossil fuels are the major source of much of Canada's air pollution, and they are also the source of our greenhouse gases. When you address climate change, you automatically reduce the amount of fossil fuels you burn, either through efficiency or through moving toward cleaner forms of energy. Of course, this means you end up with less air pollution as well.
One of the three ingredients in smog is heat. The other important factor is that if we allow the globe to continue to warm and we allow our cities to continue to warm, we will have more smog. We've seen that already in certain places, most particularly southern Ontario, but other places in Canada as well, such as Montreal and the Lower Mainland.
This brings me to my first proposed amendment for Bill C-30, which is to include in the preamble a reference to the ultimate objective of the United Nations framework convention on climate change. That objective is to prevent dangerous anthropocentric interference with the climate system. Canada signed on to this in 1992. We ratified it, and of course we ratified the protocol that came from it, in 1997.
The second amendment goes to the first one, which is that in order to prevent dangerous climate change we need to include short-, medium-, and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets as part of Bill C-30. They have to be written into the bill to ensure there is continuity with the objective of both dealing with climate change and addressing our urban air pollution problems.
These cannot be intensity targets. The only way to address climate change is to reduce absolute emissions. Using an intensity target basically takes away the transparency of what we're trying to do. We are trying to measure and reduce our greenhouse gases. By turning it into a ratio that has to do with economic activity, it essentially muddies the waters and does not allow us to focus on what the objective should be.
We talk about short-, medium-, and long-term targets. We already have a short-term target, which is the Kyoto Protocol.
All this discussion—should we or shouldn't we, can we or can't we—on the Kyoto Protocol, is actually absolutely inappropriate. Kyoto is international law. Canada is bound by it. We should be achieving those targets and those objectives. It is also an unnecessary distraction, because all the evidence shows that Canada can still meet its Kyoto targets. Absolutely. We need to get on with it. We need to stop this debate.
The people who have resisted the science of climate change have now moved on. They are now talking about how Kyoto is not achievable. This is not an accident. To overcome that we need to move toward reducing emissions and doing it now.
Kyoto is not the final destination, of course. Kyoto is one point along the path to addressing climate change in a meaningful way.
In order to avoid dangerous climate change, which is again the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC, the science is very clear that we have to start reducing. We have to stabilize concentrations in the atmosphere very quickly and reduce them by approximately 80% by 2050. Globally, it is in the range of 50% to 55%.
For Canada to take its fair share of that responsibility, given that our emissions per capita are much higher than those of the vast majority of the world—in fact we're close to the bottom in terms of our pollution per person—our emission targets should be 80% by 2050. Of course, working backwards from that, we get to a 25% reduction by 2020.
The EU has actually committed, pledged to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020. It is starting at a spot where it uses half the energy we do, and it emits way fewer greenhouse gases per person. The EU is not only saying that it will do 20%, but that if it has partners—if it has Canada and others joining it—it is willing to go to 30% by 2020. That's the kind of leadership we need to follow. I'm not even asking for us to be leaders; I'm asking us to follow the leaders and not be laggards.
That brings me, of course, to my third amendment. In order to get to short-, medium-, and long-term targets, the Governor in Council needs to introduce limits on greenhouse gas emissions from industry. Industry makes up 50% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore it should take on 50% of the responsibility for reducing those emissions.
We need a cap and trade system that ensures that, in essence, industry meets its Kyoto targets: 6% below 1990 levels. What does this work out to? If you do the math, you look at the emissions from industry in 1990 and subtract 6%, and you compare them to the business-as-usual projections that we have for 2010, it amounts to 127 megatonnes per year for industry. That's the target that industry should be asked to take on, in order for it to share the responsibility for addressing climate change in Canada.
We use 1990 as the base year because that's the fairest way to do it. This gives credit for early action to those companies and those industries that have actually acted to reduce their emissions between 1990 and now. There are industries that have done it and there are companies that have done it.
Here is just one example of how it would be possible for industry to actually meet this target. The largest burden of that would be on the oil and gas sector, because its emissions have grown the most since 1990. An industry association, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, put out a report a couple of years ago that said that the oil and gas industry could actually reduce its emissions by 29 megatonnes per year every year, at no net cost. Every dollar invested in becoming more efficient would come back to them in the form of energy savings. That's close to half of the target for the oil and gas sector. There would be zero cost for reducing half of its emissions. This is absolutely doable. When you break it down by oil and gas, electricity, and manufacturing sector, the numbers are absolutely doable. And this is the biggest chunk of meeting Kyoto. Of course, we saw last night in the House that we now have a law that gives further evidence—it was already international law and supposedly Canadian law—that Parliament wants to get on with it, and Canadians want us to get on with it.
Canada will have to buy international credits to do that. We've unfortunately waited way too long to be able to do it all domestically. International credits have unfortunately all been painted as hot air, which is completely ridiculous. The clean development mechanism and the joint implementation are projects that produce certified emission reductions. They're third-party verified, and they're verified to be additional to what would have happened in a business-as-usual case. In other words, they are emission reductions. And of course we know that emissions anywhere contribute to climate change everywhere. So emission reductions anywhere else in the world will help to combat climate change.
There are also huge economic opportunities for doing this, of course. Canadian industries can export their clean energy through these mechanisms. Others are doing it. The EU is very engaged in this. Japan is engaged in this. As is the case for the other action on climate change, Canada is being left behind. Action on climate change, including international credits, is an opportunity that we are missing out on.
Getting back to the health aspects for our citizens and our ecosystems—and when we talk about air pollution, that is of course the concern—if we do care about the long-term health of Canadians and if we want to take global responsibility for the pollution we've created, then we need to tackle climate change head-on. That will have a huge impact on air pollution in our cities and on the health of Canadian citizens.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yes, I do have a point of order.
I didn't want to interrupt the witness, Mr. Chair, but I want to bring it to the attention of the witnesses that we have different topics. We have the topic of climate change, the topic of transportation, the topic of target setting, the topic of international input, and the topic of air pollution, which is today's topic. We have the topic of oil and gas and large industrial, and we have tools, energy, emissions, fiscal issues—all these topics.
We appreciate the testimony we just received, Mr. Chair, but the topic for this morning is pollution. Part of deals with pollution levels, deals with air quality, both indoor and outdoor. I know that the witnesses are passionate about the issues, and they have provided good testimony, but the topic today is pollution.
So I'd ask the witnesses to please stay on topic. Thank you for the recommendations, but please stay on topic.
Thank you for inviting us to present the position of the Montreal Public Health Authority.
As physicians specializing in public health, we are very much involved in these issues in our region. The population of Montreal, as you probably know, is 1.8 million. Working in the area of public health, we are of the view that action must be taken now. In Montreal, air pollution and climate change is already causing very significant public health problems. The future of climate change will exacerbate the situation.
More specifically—and you already have these figures—there are nearly 1,540 premature deaths associated with air pollution. We have done studies, especially of people who live near freeways. The results revealed an increase of 30% in the number of hospitalizations among the 50,000 to 75,000 people living within 15 metres of a freeway in Montreal. Heatwaves also increase the number of deaths. There have been three severe heatwaves over the past 20 years. During those periods, between 100 and 150 more people died per day than usual. According to the forecasts of a Quebec research consortium called Ouranos, the severity and length of heatwaves is expected to increase very significantly within 20 years. So we can probably expect situations like what we saw in Europe in the summer of 2003.
My first message to you is that we need to act now.
We know the solutions. You just have to look at what is being implemented right now in the European Economic Community. The State of California is also taking action. However, to implement those solutions, we need a very integrated approach at the local, regional, national and international levels.
We now know that for every dollar invested in clean technology or effective strategies, we get three dollars back in health benefits. That is what the experts in California told us when we attended an international conference on this topic. It pays to invest in this: the return on investment is really very high.
We would like to see Canada's Clean Air Act include quantifiable objectives for ambient air as well as for emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. A second step would be to develop a management plan and clear timetables for implementation. We also would like to see assessment criteria and accountability to the public. Those are the basic pillars of an effective law.
Concerning clause 103.07 of Bill C-30, we recommend instead the use of WHO criteria dealing with, among other things, breathable particles, nitrate oxides, ozone and sulfur dioxide. This information is contained in the document that was provided to you today. There is a consensus regarding these criteria at the international level, and we find it hard to understand why Canada would not support those objectives. We know that doing so would reduce mortality in Canada by 15%. That is very significant.
Turning to another point, clause 103.09 states that the government may regulate. We suggest that the word “may” should be replaced by the word “shall.” The word “may” is much weaker from a legal standpoint. The word “shall” creates an obligation.
With respect to the release of air pollutants from fixed and mobile sources, there are three key sources, which are transportation, the electrical sector and power plants. If we are talking about GHG emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, these sources are just about the same: transportation, power plants and the oil industry. Those sources account for over 60% of our emissions.
If we look at the situation in Quebec in particular, 85% of nitrate oxides and 38% of greenhouse gases come from transportation sources. In Montreal, we are looking at 50% of greenhouse gases from transportation. So that is a key sector.
In order to take an integrated approach, there need to be several strategies: legislation, financial incentives, education and empowerment, especially for community groups. These strategies would involve the local, regional, national and international levels and various sectors of government (energy, transport, industry, agriculture and land use development).
In the transport sector, the main objective is to decrease the number of trips and the number of kilometres travelled, as well as to increase the efficiency of vehicles. To do this, we need to increase funding for public transit. In Canada, 85% of the population live in eight cities. We recommend that the federal government adopt the equivalent of the Marshall plan for funding public transit. What is needed in large cities is what is called a modal shift from the use of single-occupant automobiles to public transit.
We need to improve urban planning and move to transit-oriented development, which means that people would use public transit as well as active transport such as bicycles and walking, which connects with the idea of walkable cities.
It is also important to develop other alternatives to single-occupant automobiles and to make automobiles more efficient through regulation. The European Economic Community, for example, has just adopted regulations that cap CO2 emissions at 120 grams per kilometre. That is now the norm in the European automobile industry. The limit in California is 128 grams of CO2 per kilometre. I believe that the federal government can and should implement such provisions.
In order to influence consumer choices, it is also important to provide economic incentives to the public. The cost of public transit needs to be reduced significantly for students and low-income people, for example. In Perth, Australia, where I was two years ago, public transit was free in the downtown area. When that is the case, people use it.
Financial incentives can also be provided to encourage people to buy much more energy-efficient vehicles. Those kinds of incentives are very effective. These are what we call rebate programs. We need to slap heavy taxes on mega- horsepower vehicles and remove the taxes from small vehicles. I would go even further and say that we need to ban advertising of high-powered vehicles on TV. The anti-smoking strategies adopted by the federal government a few years ago worked along those lines. Financial incentives were increased and tobacco advertising was banned. It works, it is effective, and people do change their behaviour.
A number of European cities are in the process of adopting a transportation approach. It is clear that these types of measures produce health benefits, not only by improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also by making people much more active.
Health Canada considers obesity to be the most important epidemic it is facing. Obesity is very closely associated with the increased use of private vehicles. If people take public transit, they walk more; so they are more physically fit as a result. That reduces the rate of cardiovascular disease.
In conclusion, we recommend that a new clause be added to the bill specifying that the Government of Canada must ensure that all federal departments adopt the necessary policies to reach the objectives set out in the act and its regulations.
This means that each department would have a sustainable development policy, which would mean that we would have sustainable transportation, sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy.
That should lead to sustainable solutions for Canada.
In summary, we need to set quantifiable objectives for air pollutants and emissions, develop an action plan with specific timeframes, develop an integrated approach at all levels, and inform the public about attainment of the objectives. Every dollar invested results in three dollars in health benefits.
We need to act now because the health of Canadians is at stake.
Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to appear on the air pollution sections of . I know the committee's time is short, so I'll focus my remarks on the changes that I feel are necessary to make Bill C-30 effective in dealing with air pollution in Canada.
I've tabled with the clerk a set of proposed amendments to the bill. These amendments are in line with what NGOs proposed early on to the committee, and I'm pleased to note the common ground we found on these amendments with other sectors. These sectors include the Canadian Chemical Producers Association, although we disagree on issues such as equivalency, which I'd be happy to elaborate on in today's discussion.
The amendments we see as necessary for in addressing air pollution are as follows: first is the setting of mandatory ambient air quality standards; second is establishing emissions regulations to meet the ambient air standards; third is empowering the Minister of Environment to designate significant areas that are uniquely vulnerable to pollution or significant generators of pollution; fourth is introducing the principle of substitution, to ensure that the use of toxic substances is reduced; fifth is removing the equivalency provisions in Bill C-30; and sixth is providing a deadline for the coming into force of the act. I'll touch on each of these announcements, but I'll focus most of my time on how to go about setting air quality standards.
Currently there are generally no binding air quality standards at the federal level governing air pollution in Canada. We have what are called the Canada-wide standards, but these standards are purely voluntary. By contrast, the United States and many other industrialized countries have mandatory national standards that protect their citizens' health and the environment. In Canada we have the legal infrastructure to put in place such standards; what's been lacking so far is the political will.
As proposed, does not introduce a comprehensive schedule for setting or achieving air quality objectives. Bill C-30's amendments to CEPA should require that national mandatory standards for ambient air quality be introduced to replace existing voluntary standards. These standards should be based on a review of standards in pure jurisdictions such as the United States, the European Union, and, as Monsieur Drouin just mentioned, the World Health Organization's standards. We should be aiming to meet or exceed the best practices among these jurisdictions.
The standards should be established and in place within six months of the Clean Air Act coming into force, and emission regulations to meet these ambient air standards should be established and in place within a further six months. Both ambient air quality standards and emission standards should be reviewed every five years with a view to ensuring they remain consistent with global best practices.
I would note that although the major problem with the Canada-wide standards is that they are not enforceable, they're also weaker than standards in other jurisdictions. The CWS ozone standard, just to take one example, is more than eight times weaker than the U.S. EPA standard.
To implement the new standards, the Minister of Environment would establish air quality zones and monitoring regimes for each zone. The zones may be based on county or municipality, as is the case in the United States, or census district. For each zone the minister would publicly report quarterly on air pollutant levels and on whether ambient air quality standards have been met in that zone.
The amendments to should stipulate that if an area does not meet its ambient air quality standard because of pollution sources from international jurisdictions—in most cases for Canada that would be the United States—the emission standards for that area must nonetheless be in the most protective category of emission standards, even if this will not result in attainment of the ambient standard. In the case of pollution from a source in another province, if the two provinces cannot come to a bilateral agreement for addressing the pollution sources, the federal government should act as the arbitrator.
Under our proposed amendments the Minister of Environment may provide exemptions from the emission standards for a particular zone, but only for cases of severe economic hardship and only on a time-limited basis.
The model we have provided may be overseen through the existing equivalency approach in CEPA. In practice, provinces will likely reach agreement with the federal government to meet the ambient air and emission standards.
This brings me to the equivalency provisions in . Section 10 of the bill allows the Governor in Council to grant provinces exemptions from federal regulation. Currently, if such an exemption is to be given to a province, CEPA requires that the province have a regulation that is equivalent to the federal regulation. Bill C-30 proposes a shift from equivalency of regulation to equivalency of effect. In other words, provinces would be able to win an exemption if they can show that their measures have the same effect as the federal measure. This is intended to allow provinces the flexibility to grant permits on a one-off, per facility basis, rather than ensuring that all facilities from a particular sector must meet the same standard.
These provisions of Bill C-30 should be deleted for two important reasons. First, this change would substantially weaken the regulatory authority of CEPA. It is critically important in dealing with pollution that we maintain consistent national standards. Pollution migrates across political boundaries, and the vague wording of “equivalency of effect” will likely lead to a patchwork of provincial measures to deal with transboundary pollutants that affect neighbouring jurisdictions. Ensuring equivalency of regulation is a far better means to achieve a uniform level of protection across the country. While I am aware of the industry's concern about having two regulators, watering down the equivalency provisions in the way proposed section 10 proposes would fail to ensure that we have one effective regulator.
The second reason to maintain equivalency of regulation is that this standard has been tested in the courts, and we know that it is constitutionally sound. The unfortunate history of environmental jurisprudence in this country suggests that when we wander into new territory with regard to separation of powers, litigation inevitably follows. Even if this litigation ultimately fails in the courts, it succeeds in hampering the administration of environmental law. Parliament has an equivalency model in the current CEPA that is tried and true. It should not risk a new model that will undoubtedly lead to costly lawsuits.
The most recent Supreme Court case in this area is the Hydro-Québec case. This case upheld the equivalency provisions of CEPA, but only by a narrow majority of the court. Under the federal government's criminal law power on which the Hydro-Québec case was based, the more flexibility that is built into a legal measure, the less likely it is that the measure will be viewed as valid under the criminal law power. In fact, in the Hydro-Québec case the existence of equivalency agreements was presented as an argument against the validity of CEPA. By providing regulatory authorities with more flexibility, the proposed change virtually guarantees litigation in this area.
Our third set of amendments deals with the power to designate significant areas. The preamble of CEPA recognizes the importance of an ecosystem-based approach. Particularly for air pollution, it is essential to first identify the most important ecosystems for the legislation to focus on.
For example, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin is where 45% of Canada's toxic air pollution is generated and where 58% of the facilities under the national pollutant release inventory are located. A “significant area” designation could be used to match U.S. legislative commitments to deal with toxic pollution and other issues in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin. Given recent Canadian election campaign promises from all four major political parties to clean up this area, identifying the basin as a significant area for attention under Canada's overarching pollution law would be a sensible starting point. Future areas that might be considered could include the Arctic, a highly sensitive ecosystem that is especially vulnerable to persistent and bioaccumulative pollutants.
l'd like to touch very briefly on two other important amendments. The first deals with the principle of substitution. In many cases, the most effective form of pollution control is to substitute harmful substances for more benign alternatives. Neither Bill C-30 nor CEPA currently deals adequately with substitution, nor does the government's recently announced chemicals management plan. In the amendments package I've provided, I've outlined the different legislative sections in which this principle should be implemented.
The final amendment I would recommend is to ensure accountability in the legislation by fixing the coming into force date at 90 days after the day on which Bill C-30 receives royal assent.
My written submission provides further details on all these amendments. I hope the committee will consider these amendments in order to provide a firm basis for protecting the health and environment of Canadians from the harmful effects of pollution.
Thank you very much.
I have told you that it fis a privilege to be invited. I'm a citizen of Canada. I'm not here on anybody's behalf, and I'm not representing anyone or any organization, so it is a real privilege just to have a voice in front of this committee.
I have lived or worked in eight of the ten provinces and one of the territories and I have lived outside of Canada, so I think I can speak to our differences as well as to where we have a lot of similarities. It's about pollution today, but it's about everything. I want to say that everybody across Canada wants the same thing. They want clear air, clean water, clean food chains, and affordable energy. You cannot consider one thing without considering all elements. I heard one of the other speakers today use the word “integrated”. I think that's a word you should have written at the top of your page.
In some ways we've even come to think of air, water, and land as free goods, and we expect to have our energy nearly free. I think the reason we have that economic model, first of all, is that we inherited it from people who had continents that they once took full advantage of. We had the luxury of a new continent with an abundance of fresh air, fresh water, land for the taking, and energy resources at our feet, and we could afford to treat these resources as if they were free. That economic model doesn't work today. It was never appropriate, but it is absolutely not appropriate today.
I run my businesses as I have in the past when I ran Suncor. I used to tell people as early as the early nineties that there were five things we had to do well. If you did not do them all well, you failed. If you did four out of five things perfectly, you still had a failing mark. That was the only way we could think about the way we had to do business and the way we had to run our lives and our operations.
If you're interested, those top five were the health and safety of the employees; care for the environment and our communities; productivity, which is where we pay ourselves; quality and care for the customer; and profitability, which is where we have the ability to pay for our lenders. We had to be focused on achieving those things, and it became absolutely the way people did their work. They would no more think it was okay to put excess SO2—sulphur dioxide—or any other air pollutant up our stacks than they would think it was okay to injure another employee or to not make a buck.
I found that if you got people thinking in integrated fashions, they started acting in integrated fashions. That's what I'm asking you to consider with this bill.
The thing that's missing the most here is, first of all, that we don't have clear objectives. We talk about targets, but what we really want to do is talk about what the objectives of this bill are so that we can rise above political differences and regional differences and be clear in our minds about where we're headed. Then, think about the long term, which does not mean that we don't act now.
Once you've set those objectives, you work with businesses and people to set the targets. Many of our targets are already out there. We have standards around the world that we can borrow, so we don't need to argue about them. We need to provide the framework in which people can actually behave and do what they need to do to meet those targets and meet the long-term objectives.
This is where I'm going to say to you that it's the framework that most often doesn't get the attention, because we treat the environment as if it was one of the items that we have to do and do well, as if it were separate from all the other systems that we have in place in our country. I don't think that's the right way.
It's important for you to realize, when you have these considerations, that you have to take a look at the systems we use in this country to run the country. The biggest system that impacts the way in which people use these resources, both business and personal, is our taxation system, our fiscal framework. It's important that we consider overhauling that framework and stop taxing the good things in life—known as income or savings and taxation on work—and that we start taxing those things in life that are called consumptions.
This is not a moral stand. It allows people who want to buy an SUV to buy an SUV. The only difference is that you pay for your SUV and you pay for it fully. You're aware and conscious, in your choices, that you are actually going to pay for the privilege of consuming more of the world's resources when you do so and that there isn't anything free in this life of ours.
When you go through this and consider it as just a passionate plea from a citizen, I would really say that you can't look at your objectives, targets, and the policies you want to put in place without simultaneously thinking about the way we actually run this country and how inappropriate it has become, full of perverse taxation methodologies that are not consistent with the kind of country we want to run.
I'm not going to take up more than 10 minutes, because you have many more experts than me. It's just a plea to think in an integrated fashion and to use this particular bill to start getting changes made in the way we think about our fiscal regime and our economic regime in Canada. That way, we'll have a successful country.
Thanks for your time. It's been a real privilege to make that statement. I look forward to your questions.
With respect to financing for the development of technologies, in the past the OECD and the Commissioner of the Environment have said that those kinds of incentive financing options can play a part in dealing with climate change, but that Canada has relied much too heavily on them and needs to move toward regulations and financial disincentives as well.
The financing of technology development is important, but I would say it takes a back seat to the kinds of measures we actually need to reduce emissions.
With respect to a carbon tax, a cap and trade system is the other side of the coin of a carbon tax. Instead of setting the price and not really knowing what emission reductions you're going to get, a cap and trade system sets the limits and you don't exactly know what the price of carbon will be.
We prefer to see a cap and trade system for Canada's industry because we know what the outcome is going to be. The cap is there. The number is there. We know what emissions reductions we're going to get.
It also allows for different industries to adjust differently. There are some that have a lot of low-hanging fruit, and I've mentioned one in terms of the petroleum industry. They have a lot of options to reduce emissions, and they are cost-effective and even cost-positive. Other industries will find it more difficult to reduce emissions as much as some industries that do have that low-hanging fruit. Therefore, the trading mechanism is very important.
All the economic analysis shows that a cap and trade system actually allows us to meet our objectives at the lowest economic cost.
Okay, thank you. That's very helpful.
Mr. Drouin, I wonder if I could come to you next. On the issue of transportation, I wonder if you'd agree with me on a hierarchy of priorities, if you will, for dealing with public transit and trying to get more people using it. I agree with you. It should be a priority.
Would you agree that probably the first priority is how the community is structured? In other words, if you have a community that is built over an enormous distance without any particular centre, it's enormously difficult to provide transit. In fact, it's downright impractical to do so. So the first priority should be how the community is structured.
Secondly, even if you have the right urban forum, if you don't have the physical infrastructure, then there's nothing for anybody to use. So the second priority should be the physical infrastructure, in other words, the buses, the subways, the actual things that people can ride.
The third priority would be the actual cost of utilizing that system. Within that, there would even be a hierarchy to reduce upfront costs. So when somebody walks onto the system, it's either free or significantly reduced, as opposed to the person, say, in the lowest possible priority, getting some kind of tax credit a year later. That would be the lowest incentive you could provide.
One thing we haven't talked a lot about are ways, for example, through infrastructure funds or returning of gas tax money, to help with some of those highest priority needs of funding the infrastructure but also helping communities to develop in the right way.
If you agree with that hierarchy, do you think those should be the first priorities in driving an urban transit agenda?
Thank you very much for your question.
It seems that you have already read our annual report on urban transportation and public health, because we definitely—that you use that approach.
I want to respond, actually, to the previous question in terms of the technological advancement. That's good, but if you don't have an integrated approach, to which Dr. Drouin referred, it isn't sufficient.
So yes, our towns and cities have to be planned in a way that people will want to use the public transit infrastructure. We totally agree with that whole approach.
In terms of the cost, Dr. Drouin talked about financial incentives and disincentives. Taxes on gas would be put into the public transit system, for example.
Having a lower-cost source, as opposed to getting a tax rebate a year later, would clearly be a much stronger incentive for people to use the public transportation system.
I think the urban planning you mentioned, which is centred around public transportation, is the key to the future.
We have had a lot of debate on that in Montreal. The major issue is how to finance public transit.
If you look at Europe, or even in the States, the major funds come from upper government. In Europe, at least 85% of the cost for subways, trains, comes from the states' upper levels.
We had a lot of discussion with people in Montreal with respect to this report. We presented each part of Montreal. What did people tell us? They said they want to be on public transit if it's accessible, secure, comfortable, and on time.
We don't have this system on the west island of Montreal or in the east part of Montreal. We've started to build trains in Laval, but the major issue is always money, money, money. As you know, the municipal fiscalité is insufficient to finance that.
When you do that, we also have to control who runs—
Ms. Parkinson-Marcoux, it's good to hear from you again. I was pleased to hear your comments about consumption taxes. A lot of Canadians hadn't connected the environmental aspects of a consumption tax. It's interesting, because in the debate that surrounded the government's decision to reduce GST by a point, what we heard mostly was not on the question of environmental impact but on the question of cutting a consumption tax, and its negative effect on savings levels, investment, and productivity in the country. It would have been a more productive thing to cut income taxes. It's interesting how you're talking about the shifting here. I just wanted to remark on that.
Perhaps I could turn to our colleague from the Suzuki Foundation, Mr. Marshall.
Mr. Marshall, I was really happy to hear that there is a study from the oil and gas sector. I think all of us would benefit from hearing more about the ability to reduce greenhouse gases. I know the forest products sector of Canada has already reduced its greenhouse gases with strong related air pollution reductions. They have reduced their greenhouse gases by 44%, using 1990 as a baseline in this country. It's interesting to see there's another success story and sector out there that could achieve—with some effort.
Mr. Freeman, I'd like to turn to your specific recommendation. I want to thank you for your notes, your comments, and your recommendations, because they're highly specific. They're good for us to work with. You mentioned the idea of creating new air quality zones. For Canadians who are watching or listening, I guess you're talking about dividing up the country into zones. You mentioned the specific areas where you have high pollution levels and high population levels.
The country is urbanizing much faster than we ever thought it was going to, to the point where we now know—I think it was Mr. Drouin who said this—that roughly 80% of the population lives in 12 or 14 cities.
Then you went on say that the emissions standards for those areas must nonetheless be in the most protective category of emissions standards. I didn't understand what you meant by that. Could you help us understand this? If we divide the country into these air quality zones and set standards, how would this work where there are areas that are more polluted than others, for example?
The ultimate objective is to get people to leave their cars behind and use public transit in order to reduce the number of vehicles and the number of kilometres driven in a densely populated urban area.
I will as an aside, say this: For three months, in Atlanta, during the 1996 Olympic Games, people were all redirected to public transit. The incidence of smog and hospitalization for asthma were reduced by 40%, because there were fewer vehicles on the road. It had a major impact.
Having said that, the federal, provincial and local governments must work together to produce the greatest impact possible. The current government has recommended a tax deduction for the cost of public transit. That measure is insufficient for the simple reason that the cost of the pass in Montreal has increased. It increases faster than inflation, because the city no longer has the means to maintain its own subway system. Funding is a major issue. Again, municipal taxes, be it in Montreal or Toronto, are no longer enough to maintain, fund and increase the transportation network. We need to know where the money is that could help us.
Let's look what is happening in Copenhagen and in France. I met our French colleagues. Paris is currently building a tramway system. The French government is funding 85% of the system. We are on the right track, but funding must be increased a lot more than what was mentioned earlier.
The annual report we presented talks about an effort, in terms of public transit infrastructure, of 8 billion dollars over 10 years, for the Montreal metropolitan region alone. Those figures come from the Agence métropolitaine de transport. That means the engineers, the light train transit system, or the LRT, the extension of the metro on the Anjou side, the rail link between Dorval and downtown Montreal. It makes no sense, in 2007, that we do not have a rail link between the city and—
The AMT studies showed that we could move 500,000 vehicles on a yearly basis if a rail link between the main train station and the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport were built. There again, more funding is needed, and the federal government has a major role to play in that regard.
I would like to congratulate both Mr. Manning and Mr. Jean for ignoring Mr. Warawa and continuing to ask questions about greenhouse gases and Kyoto. Thank you.
I want to talk about proposed sections 103.07 and 103.09, which two witnesses referred to precisely, Mr. Drouin and Mr. Freeman. As far as I can make out, they're both on the same page in terms of having mandatory air quality standards, and Mr. Freeman sets out the kind of detail we're looking for.
I want to understand something, just for the purposes of looking at an amendment. Proposed section 103.07 is all about issuing objectives and assessing effectiveness, and consulting, publishing, and preparing—that's what it's all about. But 103.09 seems to be about regulating air pollutants and greenhouse gases, the quantity and concentration of air pollutants in greenhouse gases.
Can you explain to us, Mr. Freeman, what the difference is between going after specific substances in proposed section 103.09, which might seem to have something to do with air quality, and actual air quality standards with enforcement?
Sure. I'll draw the distinction between ambient air quality standards and emission standards.
Ambient air quality standards—and in the way you're following the legislation, this would be in proposed section 103.07—set the standard of the air we breathe, in essence. We want a basic standard that meets human health and environmental criteria that ensure the ambient air around us is of a certain quality. So that's 103.07.
Then proposed section 103.09 deals with how you get there. How do you get to achieving those ambient air quality objectives? And that's about air emissions. That's about the facilities that are emitting pollution, what kinds of standards they will have to adhere to.
They're both key elements. The problem with the Clean Air Act as it's currently worded is the setting of ambient air quality standards. One of the problems is they don't talk about the quality of those standards, but setting that issue aside, they do set ambient air quality standards. It's within three years, it should be shorter, the standards should be strong, and there's no mention of how strong.
Then when you move to proposed section 103.09, the setting of the emission standards in order to reach those ambient standards, the key word there is “may”. So if you look at 103.09(1), it says “The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Ministers, make regulations”. If you look at subsection (2), it says again, “The Governor in Council may—make regulations”, and then there's a long list of powers that parallel the powers that are existing in CEPA that the minister may choose from.
So the problem here is that we have a setting of the quality of the air we breathe. We don't have a mandatory setting of how we're going to achieve those standards.