: Bonjour, tout le monde
, and welcome to meeting 20 of the Legislative Committee on Bill C- 30. Thank you all for coming.
We have a lot of work ahead of us in the next few days, so we'll try to waste as little time as possible. However, don't gobble your food, because it's bad for your digestion. We're pleased to be able to feed you so well.
Welcome to the folks from the department.
The first thing we will do is table the third report from the subcommittee, which we held on Friday. It details the schedule that we've laid out for this week.
Starting today, with some breaks for voting and so on, we will meet from 5:30 to 9:30. And we'll come back to that. Tomorrow we'll meet from 9 to 11 and from 3:30 to 5:30. Now, the end times with all of these are flexible, so if we're on a roll and we keep rolling, that's good. On Wednesday we'll meet from 12 noon until 2 p.m.—there'll be lunch—and from 3:30 to 9:30. And on Thursday, March 29, we'll meet from 9 to 11 and, if necessary, from 11 to 1 o'clock. We have to report back to the House at noon on Friday, so if possible, we would like not to keep our staff up all night doing the report.
Mr. Bigras, apparently there is something happening in Quebec this evening. I've received a request from the Bloc that we adjourn at 9 p.m., if committee members have no objections.
Okay, we're good to go.
We're now at the stage where we can get started. I'd like to take a minute to ensure that everybody has the documents they need.
You should have an amendments binder. You should have the package of 34 Liberal amendments, starting with amendment L-1. This whole package was distributed last Tuesday. You should have received amendment NDP-15.3 that was distributed last Tuesday. There's an additional package of six Liberal amendments, starting with amendment L-2.1, which was distributed last Friday.
Earlier today the clerk received two new NDP amendments, amendments NDP-12.1 and NDP-38, which have just been distributed.
And there is the agenda for today's meeting, which has been updated to show all amendments received to date and all decisions taken to date.
The clerk has extra copies of all of those things, if you discover as we go along that you don't have what you need.
Are there any questions before we begin?
Anyway, we're going to be methodical about this. Because there are a lot of interrelationships between clauses, we're going to make sure we're not dealing with something that's affected by something else down the road. We will be methodical and we'll make sure everybody has the information they need.
The first one we are going to hear is the new Liberal amendment, L-2.1 that's been distributed but not yet moved. Before we do that, I want to share something with you.
Part 1 of deals with amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This amendment proposes a new clause outside of CEPA, proposing a series of public hearings to ascertain the views of Canadians on the appointment process for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
was referred to committee before second reading, which means that there is more latitude in the amending process. The requirement that amendments must fall within the scope of the bill does not apply to bills referred before second reading. However, other rules of admissibility continue to apply. Every amendment, for example, must be relevant to the subject matter of the bill, and this rule is expressed on page 654 of Marleau-Montpetit.
It's not clear to me how this amendment relates to the subject matter of the bill before us. I just say that before we kick off. I would appreciate the honourable member addressing this point during his remarks on the amendment, and then I'll hear from other members on this before giving a decision on the admissibility of the amendment.
With that short preamble, I will turn it over to, I'm assuming, Mr. McGuinty to propose amendment L-2.1.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you for your patience with this amendment L-2.1.
It replaces amendment L-2, which did have financial and expenditure implications for the government, and we heard in your ruling, which we thank you for, in the last meeting that royal recommendation does not attach to this bill in its present form. Therefore we replaced amendment L-2 with L-2.1 because it explicitly avoids new expenditures.
I'm interested to hear the question that you put to the table right now, Mr. Chair, with respect to the relevancy of this amendment, and I'd like to speak to that pretty directly in very short order to explain why this is so incredibly important for the future of the country as we seek to both, using the government's language, clean up our air and reduce our greenhouse gases.
This is not a strange matter to almost every member of this committee, Mr. Chair. We have been seized with this in the environment committee, for those of us who sit there, and this is an issue that's been debated quite openly. The amendment has inspired itself in terms of the role and purpose of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, using standard agent of Parliament language—for example, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Ethics Commissioner—and you see that in proposed section 72.15, as written in the amendment.
We have, however, added a few additional features when we speak about the purpose of the commissioner being to monitor and report on the state and integrity of the environment of Canada under proposed section 72.15. It states:
to monitor and report on the progress of federal institutions towards sustainable development through the integration of social, economic and environmental concerns, including
And you will see, of course, proposed paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g). Two new ones are (h) and (i), which speak explicitly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and also speak explicitly to the avoidance of climate change—something that I believe is inherent, if not explicit, in Bill C-30 as it is presently drafted. It's not only related to Bill C-30, Mr. Chair, but it's also desperately needed if we're going to enhance the environmental accountability in Canada for this and any subsequent government that might be forthcoming.
There are also some other standard agent of Parliament powers, starting in proposed section 72.19, that again flow from offices like that of the Ethics Commissioner. However, in proposed section 72.20—again very much, I believe, on point with Bill C-30 and its purpose—proposed paragraph 72.20(2)(a) is new, and it asks the commissioner to report on the sustainable development obligations of any federal institution that has not yet complied, not having been in compliance “in a timely and effective manner”. Again, that was inspired from the essential purpose of Bill C-30.
Finally, under proposed section 72.21, Mr. Chair, which is all new, it speaks very explicitly to air quality and greenhouse gas reduction issues, again as stated in the central purpose of Bill C-30, which is to strengthen Canada's regulatory, institutional, and legal framework to deal with both clean air and greenhouse gas reduction.
It calls, for example, on the commissioner, starting in 2013 and every two years after that until 2051, to prepare a report that includes—it's important I think to single them out, Mr. Chair, for a second:
(a) an analysis of Canada's progress in implementing the Climate Change Plans;
(b) an analysis of Canada's progress in meeting its international commitments and obligations with respect to climate change and greenhouse gases;
That might be international commitments that we presently hold and international commitments that could be negotiated and entered into in the future.
Finally, proposed paragraph 72.21(1)(d) calls for:
an analysis of the progress of the Minister of the Environment in establishing a reliable methodology for estimating and auditing annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions for Canada as a whole and for each economic sector and large industrial emitter;
This speaks to some of the challenges we heard from our witnesses, Mr. Chair, about the need for Canada to get a robust set of data on greenhouse gases on a national basis, on a sector basis, and for that matter, even from a large industrial emitter basis.
I believe this would not only be a positive contribution to the strengthening of environmental accountability in Canada, but it would also, I think, greatly supplement the objectives of Bill that the government has put forward in intent and in words as Bill C-30 is presently drafted.
Those are my thoughts, Mr. Chair, as I present this amendment and formally move it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be curious to have an elaboration from you or from the clerk's table as to why this may be inadmissible, or you rule it as such.
The purpose of creating this committee, when we suggested it back in November, was for this very purpose. This is a bit of a convergence of two interests. This issue of an independent environment commissioner came forward as a result of Madame Gélinas' leaving the office prior to Christmas. In the environment committee, we looked in some detail at whether she needed to be independent.
The place to make that change was unknown to us as committee members. Members of Parliament from all parties have expressed interest in this idea of at least considering it and looking at the implications, because what happened this past year in terms of accountability for this country when it came to the environment was distressing to many of us.
We had a champion for the environment in Madame Gélinas, and then, like that, she was gone and replaced by somebody else of, I'm sure, excellent quality, but someone unknown to us and unknown certainly in the field of the environment.
This opportunity that we created through Bill C-30, and that all the parties agreed to, was the exchange of ideas. This seems like an idea that has merit. I remember when Mr. McGuinty moved this concept at the environment committee; we suggested he bring it here, to this table, where we can effect a bill.
The heart of the work that Madame Gélinas and others before her have done is around the accountability of Canada's actions and decisions when it comes to legislation with the environment. How is it that the Canadian people are able to know that what the government claims is going on has actually happened? We can all fondly remember—at least those of us in opposition at the time—the environment commissioner's reports on the government's actions, because she pointed out things.
Mr. Watson will remember that the previous government's commitment of $5 billion to fight climate change, which Canadians would say is important, had actually resulted in a little over $1 billion being spent. This current government is now making announcements, but in such a heightened political atmosphere, who are we to trust, and how can we trust that the thing will actually happen?
Over the last 14 years, Canadians can be forgiven for being a bit skeptical of government announcements. The Commissioner of the Environment's place was verifiable.
The last think I would like to say is this. Committee members who are also on the environment committee will remember that Ms. Fraser had some reservations about this concept.
We also spoke to other countries that have invoked a very different type of environment commissioner, one who is able to do a bit more of the casting forward as well as the pure, traditional auditing practices. This is a change in audit practice for Canada when it comes to the commissioner's role; it subtly alters what it is she's doing.
I think some in the Auditor General's office have concerns with that, because they are just accustomed to a different system, but when you talk to New Zealand in particular, and some European nations, this is absolutely standard practice, and it has been to great effect for MPs, both those within government and those sitting on opposition benches.
So there's a switch, a positive change. We're glad the Liberal members took up both the NDP suggestion of moving it here to Bill C-30 and the concept of moving good ideas through the Bill C-30 process to improve that accountability loop.
All of these amendments we're seeking to do, I would suggest to all those sitting around the table, aren't worth much if we don't have the confidence that they will actually happen. A big problem with environmental legislation and environmental policy in this country is that the thing just hasn't happened. The promises have been made; laws like CEPA were drafted, but we heard from witness after witness that it's the actual carrying out: it's the will of the civil service, it's the will of the politicians to actually follow through to the letter of the law. That's what's been lacking in Canada, and desperately so. It's not announcements and not grandiose statements about the environment; it's actually doing the thing.
We think this amendment, in this process, could be quite advantageous because it will ensure some accountability, but it will also put the fear into those carrying out the legislation that someone will be looking at the policies and analyzing how they match up to Canada's commitments. No one will craft a policy that the Commissioner of the Environment will walk out three months later and totally debunk. That just wouldn't be intelligent politics.
For those reasons, and as I said at the very beginning, I am curious about the ruling as to why this remains out of order. It's of some curiosity for some other amendments we're moving later on.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
My comments about this amendment will be even briefer than my colleagues because I'm not sure that at the rate we're going, we'll manage to get through the entire amendment binder.
First of all, we have to remember the discussions that have taken place thus far about the position of Commissioner of the Environment. Obviously, we've had discussions, but not within the framework of our study of Bill . I mention C-30, because I wouldn't want us to bring into the mix the debates that took place in the confines of the environment and sustainable development committee. I want you to recall the debates that took place in the Legislative Committee on Bill C-30. There is not one single member here in this committee who raised at any time the issue of the independence of the Commissioner of the Environment. Yes, the environment committee did hold some discussions following the unfortunate events that unfolded.
We were among those who called for more independence for the Commissioner of the Environment. We believed that the Commissioner should be as independent as possible. The question I have today is this: is Bill C-30 the best vehicle for initiating a discussion on the future powers of a Commissioner of the Environment? I have my doubts about that. Of course, a private member's bill could always be introduced to endow the Commissioner of the Environment with additional powers and we could call in all of the stakeholders who were consulted to discuss the matter. That wouldn't be a problem. We could discuss it and more than likely, I would vote in favour of the amendment. The issue I have today is that we're attempting to use Bill C-30 to modify the duties of the Commissioner of the Environment whereas this is not the place to do that. Moreover, we're certainly going to discuss this matter in the future. Clearly, the Parliament of Canada Act needs to be amended, but Bill C-30 is not the way to accomplish that.
This amendment, which I would qualify as a run-on amendment, is akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat, when in fact we haven't yet discussed this matter, debated it in a parliamentary committee or heard from witnesses.
In that respect, Mr. Chairman, I respect your assessment of amendment L-2.1.
I have listened and I agree, I think, that the environment commissioner is probably a good idea. I agree, frankly, with Monsieur Bigras and Mr. Warawa that we're here to rewrite ; we're not here to use the process with this committee to modify other processes. I agree that it will slow down considerably what we're doing here with respect to modifying Bill C-30, with respect to taking something back to the House on Friday to say, here's the bill.
As to what oversight there is in the bill, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is probably a good idea, and I think that will probably happen, but I don't think it's relevant to actually rewriting Bill C-30. For that reason, my ruling on this is that it would be out of order due to lack of relevance to Bill C-30 specifically.
I stand to be challenged or disagreed with, and as always, I never take it personally.
Shall we move on? Thank you for your understanding.
(On clause 2)
I'm just curious. I need some clarification, Mr. Chair.
We talked about an amendment brought forward by the Liberals, which quite frankly wasn't particularly that bad an amendment. However, it was found that it needed a royal recommendation. Then we had another one brought forward that required relevancy. What I'm looking for is confirmation. I'm not particularly saying this is a bad idea either, but where are we drawing the line on royal recommendation? Does it have to be a direct or indirect expenditure?
As for relevancy, this particular one is saying we're going to have a new body established by this. What does that have to do with if it's outside Bill C-30?
I just want to make sure I have clarification from the chair as to what a royal recommendation is. Is it a direct or indirect expenditure, and what is the relevancy, for instance, in this particular case, which has nothing to do with Bill C-30 at all and has to do with CEPA?
One question is for you, Mr. Moffet, in terms of the interpretation of this, that it's to designate to an existing body, thereby avoiding any expenditures. I think the fundamental question that's been raised is in terms of why the commissioner amendment failed because it was deemed royal recommendation and this one might not. So that's to Mr. Moffet.
I have one comment to Mr. Jean about this being out of order because it's amending to CEPA. That is how works. It's one long stretch of amendments primarily to CEPA. So on that as an objection, and maybe I missed his point, there's no problem with that. It's what we're doing all along the way.
So there are those two pieces.
On this debate about royal recommendation, this is precisely why I raised it last Thursday, because I knew this was going to cause problems throughout all of these amendments put forward to amend . That's why I put two questions to the parliamentary secretary before I was heckled down, asking for clarification from the government. What constitutes royal recommendation expenditure and what does not? It's not clear to me. It's not clear to committee members right now. We're going to have a series.
As a former trial attorney, I would say that one could argue that this costs money. I could argue that there are probably three or four other amendments in this package of amendments that would cost money. That's why I put two pointed and specific questions to the parliamentary secretary last Thursday to try to solve this problem, Mr. Chair, before we went on this journey. That's why I raised it specifically at the front end of this process last Thursday.
I still don't have an answer. Now, clearly the government itself doesn't have an answer. So I think it would be important to nail this down before we go any further, because if this is going to be an issue that's raised in every second or subsequent or third amendment, we're going to have a problem as to what constitutes royal recommendation and what calls for expenditure and what does not.
I don't know if other members of this committee have had legislative experience, but I was on a legislative committee one year ago, and there was a Liberal chair, and certainly there were members from all parties. How it was explained to us, as far as relevancy goes, not as far as royal recommendation goes, was that you have a ball of legislation and you can make amendments to that legislation, but as soon as you go outside of that ball and put something that's separate and apart as an entity, it has no relevancy to the legislation itself. In this particular case, I think that could be successfully argued, not only royal recommendation but the relevancy of it.
Quite frankly, many of the amendments are the same way. I think we need clarification as to what the chair is going to accept as far as amendments go and the relevancy of them, and whether or not they require royal recommendation, because if it's outside of that legislative ball, which is and the legislation.... An amendment is an amendment, but a complete change or something outside of that ball is not relevant.
I would ask the chair to make a determination in relation to both of those issues.
Let us reconvene. Let's get back to the issue at hand before the break.
Some concerns have been raised regarding the admissibility of amendment BQ-4. You've put the chair in a somewhat difficult position, which I recognize is your job, in the sense that I'm being essentially asked to rule on an amendment that has not yet been moved, and in fact specifically asked that it be stood.
I will say this in an attempt to be helpful. I examined BQ-4, as we had already talked about, and was of the opinion that it was admissible because of the differences that I mentioned. The other ones are very specific; this is very vague. It does not presuppose the outcome of a future negotiation. If wishes to formally move the amendment right now, then I'd be pleased to hear any points of order regarding its admissibility. But my initial impression is that it would be in order.
So does the committee wish to stand BQ-4, or do members wish to have it moved and deal with it now?
The proposal is to stand BQ-4. Do we have agreement on that? BQ-4 is stood. Thank you.
In reference to trying to make blanket rulings in advance, I'm not in a position to do that. I look at the amendments as they come up. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to look at them ahead of time and I'll have an idea formed in my mind, and it will be based on as much logic and advice as I can muster, and we'll deal with them one by one as this situation comes up.
So moving right along, I call clause 5.
(On clause 5)
The Chair: The first amendment to clause 5 is NDP-11 on page 18. I will point out that there are some line conflicts with NDP-12 on page 19, with L-18 and BQ-5 on page 20. We're going to go slowly because this may get confusing. The net impact of that is that if NDP-11 is adopted, NDP-12, L-18, and BQ-5 cannot be put. You can only amend a line once.
Mr. Cullen, would you like to move your amendment or speak to your amendment?
Thank you, Chair. I'm contemplating the decision you've just made for us this evening as well. It complicates things slightly. But we'll push on and see where we get.
There's problematic language in what proposed in terms of equivalency. This NDP-11 amendment is trying to move out some of that language. This is highly contingent upon some of the other conversations going on with some of the Bloc and Liberal considerations, but we still think this has merit, because the whole equivalency regime, the way Bill C-30 is designed right now, has presented a number of problems that were brought forward by witnesses. What equivalency measures are brought forward by provincial governments, and how do they then affect the overall situation of the country? If equivalency is read the wrong way, as we believe it is in the language right now, under Bill C-30, it opens up opportunity for provinces to make some initial efforts, but actually falls far short of what our international obligations are holding us to and, in a sense, makes the concept of national targets even more difficult to achieve, because provinces will have various equivalencies that they've then orchestrated with the government that don't as a summation add up to what we actually want to achieve as a country.
So I move that amendment. I'm open to conversations. I think there's room for us to combine some of the better elements of these amendments and proceed.
This is going to combine with what a number of the other amendments that are—I'm getting feedback here. I actually asked for the volume to be turned up, but I didn't realize what I was asking for.
While there could be some differences between what each province seeks to do and their own measures to meet a national standard, if the equivalency is not held by some objective standard, it will be impossible until much later, after the fact, as we've seen with even the federal programs. If you can't clearly delineate what the policy is as to how many carbon emission reductions you can expect—If a province comes forward with an equivalency that says it will move so many automobiles off the road or that it will make so many of them of a lower emission standard, they have to be able to account for that in the same way as the federal government is accounting for it, so there aren't apples and oranges and so the province next door can't make claims. If you don't have clarity with the accountability, you'll have an inter-jurisdictional mess between provinces, with some of them saying, “We've met our targets”, and others saying, “No, you didn't”.
We believe if you don't clear up the language—and I know we're going to stand this motion—that will connect back to funding, because we imagine the federal government will use contingency funding through this process. So if province X says, “This is the equivalency we're doing to your plant”, the government will say, “Here's a certain amount of money, if you actually meet those targets you're setting”. If you don't have the same comparison of the effect, which is at the heart of this debate, then there's no way for Canada to stand on the international stage to say this is what we've done, but more importantly, this is what we're going to do.
Your equivalency agreements are a series of different measures, and none of them are really objective. So we have a caution over the language the Bloc is going to be supporting. I think there have been some potential modifications that we're willing to look at.
That's the root of it. We need to have the same language, if you will, when talking about greenhouse gas emissions from coast to coast to coast.
Could we return to the table?
We have a slightly modified—very slightly modified—suggestion, in the interest of making some progress. With some discussion around the room, I'm going to make a slightly modified suggestion on that, so that we can tick off some of the things we may be able to get done here.
Start with clause 6. Start with clauses that, at least in our analysis, have no consequential implications or line conflicts, or clauses for which we have received no amendments, so we can step through those. I suspect enough discussion may come up on those anyway. We can deal with some of them, tick them off, and work our way towards clause 18, which we probably won't get to today. But we will at least have a number of clauses dealt with, and we can start putting some X's on the wall to say that we've made some progress here.
Is that agreeable? Mr. Cullen.
I tend to agree, with respect, with Mr. Bigras.
I would refer everybody to page 2 of the act, the definitions section. We have two things defined: air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
With respect, I'm wondering if Mr. Bigras would consider a friendly amendment whereby we put in the use of those two terms, for consistency in legislation and also for an understanding of where the act is going.
I think Mr. Bigras is right on the mark here, and to put in wording to encompass those two terms, which are already defined in the clause—In essence, the amendment would be to prevent air pollutants and greenhouse gases, which I think would be consistent with what he would say. It would also be consistent with the definition section.
Would you be prepared to take a friendly amendment, Mr. Bigras?
Regarding Mr. Jean's proposal to go back and affect some of the parts of Bill that deal with definitions, if you'll notice, in the ones from the NDP that we stood before, we made a number of amendments to restore a number of the pollution definitions in CEPA that Bill C-30 actually jeopardized.
We heard from a number of witnesses that when Bill started to tamper with those definitions, it very much limited the scope of government action. That was not something we were interested in.
So while I would imagine he's trying to make a friendly suggestion here, going back into the definitions portion is a whole new conversation.
My only comment, to follow up with Mr. Bigras, is that I think the intention of his amendment is good. I just want to make sure that what I'm hearing from Mr. Moffet is that this doesn't, in any way that was not intended, start to muddy the waters a bit on what government is meant to do research on.
I don't suspect that was Mr. Bigras' intention. I want to hear from Mr. Moffet if that's what I'm to understand his comment on the amendment was. Was he saying that if you make this type of push through Bill and amend it in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, it then somehow restricts or limits government's work and research on other things by defining it suddenly?
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to propose a few minor amendments. I'd like committee members to agree to this friendly amendment.
I'm referring here to amendment BQ-6 which proposes to add clause 5.1
For starters, in line 4 of the French version of subsection 10.1(1), I would like to replace the word “déclarer” with the words “peut déclarer”. Accordingly, in line 2 of the English version of the same provision, I'd like to substitute the word “may” for the word ”shall”.
Moving on to my second proposed amendment, the French version often refers to “l'organisme indépendant”. I'd like to replace this with the words “la Banque d'investissement vert du Canada” or, as it is called in English, the “Green Investment Bank of Canada”, or GIBC. The expressions “organisme indépendant” appears several times in the bill. We'd like to see this expression which appears in subsections 10.1(1), 10.1(2), 10.1(4), 10.1(5) and 10.1(6) as well as in paragraph 10.1(6)(b) replaced by the expression “Banque d'investissement vert du Canada.”
As for paragraph 10.1(1)a), we're proposing a minor change. The amended version would read as follows in French:
(a) d'une part, des dispositions visant la lutte contre les émissions de gaz a effet de serre qui ont un effet équivalent aux réductions requises par le budget carbone national telles que décrites à l'article 103.02.
The referenced provision would now be 103.02, not 103.071.
Does everyone have a clear understanding of the proposed change? On the back of the sheet, you will find the amended wording and different referenced provision.
Lastly, we are proposing one final change: in paragraph 10.1(6)(a), we're suggesting that the words “on request from the province in respect of which the notice was issued” be deleted and replaced with “on request from either of the parties to the agreement”. Consequently, instead of limiting this power to one province, it would be extended to all parties to the agreement.
I want to understand that better.
While I have this, there is no green investment bank of Canada. I understand the concept and I understand that negotiations are going on, but this obviously seems contingent upon something in the future that we haven't created yet. There may have to be some changes to this to reference those parts of the act that I think the Liberals were hoping to change with this green investment bank.
I don't want to state the obvious, but the only reason I raise this is that we have some changes we want to make to the green investment bank. If we can't get them, then we're not into it. Voting for this is suddenly contingent upon this new item of debate.
While I appreciate the spirit of what's going on here in terms of people modifying their amendments and trying to seek some common ground, we want to make sure we always understand what we're voting for. At this point, this one gets a little tricky for me to understand it. Once we get through some of those questions, I want to get back to this equivalency conversation, because it's extremely important to us.
There is in fact a connection with the Green Investment Bank of Canada. If a province were to decide to adopt certain measures and if these were equivalent in terms of emission reductions, the province could issue a notice. The latter would be evaluated by the Green Investment Bank of Canada which would then make a ruling. Amendment BQ-6 notes the following:
(2) The independent body shall publish a notice referred to in subsection (1) before it is issued, or give notice of its availability, in the Canada Gazette [...]
Therefore, a province wishing to adopt greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures could submit its plan to the GIBC. The latter would first be required to publish a notice in the Canada Gazette and, within 60 days after publishing the notice, it would be required to file comments or a notice of objection with the province. Within this 60-day period, the GIBC would publish a summary of the follow-up given to the comments. In shorts, comments could be filed regarding the notice. A decision could then be made. The written notice under subsection (1) could be revoked upon prior notice given by the GIBC.
The purpose of this approach is to allow a province that has decided to put forward a climate change plan in keeping with the aims of a national body to carry out its plan, provided the anticipated results are deemed equivalent to the ones the national body hopes to attain.
We're talking here about providing some flexibility and the possibility of maximizing every dollar spent on addressing climate change problems. We're proposing a decentralized approach that allows Ottawa to retain some oversight responsibility. Perhaps later we can think about a penalty regime.
Regardless, this approach would allow the provinces to implement their own plan. It's not a question of assuming that every climate change proposal submitted by a province would be acceptable under the national program. Proposed measures would need to be evaluated by this national body, in this case, the GIBC. There would be a consultation process and the notice would be published in the Canada Gazette. Comments or notices of objection could be filed, following which a ruling would be made.
I did. As I read this proposed section again—I don't need to read it in the record for the third time—it does talk about qualifications, and I don't see how amendment L-19.1 isn't a qualifier if there are going to be actual negotiations between the provinces and the federal government.
I don't see how we can have any of these discussions until we formalize what the green development bank is, until it's brought before this committee—which I think is inappropriate, because I think it's part and parcel of something else—and dealt with by way of vote, and it's decided whether or not Mr. Cullen is happy with the green development bank and what it is, or whether Mr. Bigras is happy with it or we're happy with it or Mr. McGuinty's happy with it. But right now, we're talking about a bill that refers to something that has no definition, and we don't even know what it is.
But certainly I would suggest it's inadmissible, based upon Marleau and Montpetit, page 711. I don't see how it can't be.
I refer back to it. It's one of these amendments of which I'm trying to understand the benefit versus the water-muddying potential. The intention seems clear, but in terms of process for this committee, is this something we want to be involved in? You almost want to cast back through the bill to find places where it says “air pollution”.
As it is right now, we find it acceptable to start including “global warming”. It seems to open up how this air pollution is different from something else. It's not, from what I'm hearing from Mr. Moffet—We might end up voting for this, but I would caution against continually adding in terms—particularly if there's no need to—if it's clear as it is.
Maybe Monsieur Bigras can clarify—this is meant with all good intention—what addition this brings to the bill, to give me greater understanding.
Mr. McGuinty, Mr. Chair, I will let Mr. Moffet talk to that issue of activities and why it was added. I can explain why proposed paragraphs (g) and (g.1) have been added.
As John Moffet explained, these are for very technical reasons. Since substances and activities needed to be added there from a policy point of view, we wanted fuels to keep in line with the regime that is set up for them in division 5 of part 7, which has its own tests, which are totally different from what you find in part 5 or the proposed part 5.1.
Proposed paragraph (g.1) follows exactly the kind of tests that you find in part 5 or in the proposed part 5.1. In other words, these sections were rejigged that way to make sure we're not creating any different tests from what already exists. It's a question of consistency throughout the act.
John, would you like to speak to that?
Maybe I can elaborate. As Monsieur Ares explained, the test for fuels is “contribute significantly to air pollution”. So we have similarly limited the power to gather information about fuels to fuels that may contribute significantly to air pollution. But we didn't want to have that “contribute significantly to” as a qualifier for our authority to gather information about other sources of air pollution. Hence proposed paragraphs (g) and (g.1), the separation of the two.
That's part of your question. The second part is, why did we go to “substances or activities” instead of just sticking to substances?
As you know, the original CEPA, or certainly part 5, was focused on individual substances and the impacts of substances. When you get into air pollution, and more particularly when you get into greenhouse gas, in order to regulate effectively we believe it would be useful to have the authority to understand better the nature of the activities that are under way in Canada that are contributing to air pollution and not have to tie our information-gathering authorities to individual substances that we designate. So for example, this would let us look at and request information from fossil-fuel-fired, electricity-generating activities as opposed to designating the substances that are coming out of the stack and limiting our information-gathering authorities to those substances.
Does that help?
I appreciate that explanation, but isn't that precisely what the government is trying to do here in this bill? Hasn't the government, in , been telling Canadians that we want to distinguish between air pollution and greenhouse gases?
I'm sorry, I'm getting mixed signals. You're saying that the officials are concerned about the bifurcation of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Yet I thought that what we've heard for months and months, in testimony from the government members, in communications, speeches, and the media, is that Bill C-30 is reframing for Canadians the entire question of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Do I have that wrong? The message incoming from the , , and the is that we need something new that in fact bifurcates and splits the two, because the government has been saying that there's an air quality component and a greenhouse gas component.
Do I have something wrong here? Are the officials concerned about that entire split?
I'm going to direct this towards the government benches, and maybe the parliamentary secretary can clarify it.
I've heard—and this is going to mystify Canadians—that air pollution is a broad definition that includes things like air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
To the parliamentary secretary, were there any considerations taken by the government, when drafting , that this opened up the potential to not be able to apply CEPA to counteract any business or anybody emitting greenhouse gas emissions?
It's a good point. There should almost be a “do no harm” policy in the things we're doing with our clauses. When the government put together, we believe there was some harm done to the effectiveness of CEPA. We'll get back to those. We have stayed a lot of those amendments. We're going to remove them.
Is it the government's position that this amendment by Mr. Bigras does harm to the effectiveness of the government to carry it out under these two very similar but very different definitions: one, air pollution being a broad category; and two, air pollutants being something under that in conjunction with greenhouse gases?
I take Mr. Moffet's position. If you add on “climate change or greenhouse gases”, it seems you'd almost have to amend the whole bill. That does more harm than the value of including this amendment. I'm still trying to understand what the value really is.
Did the government consider any of the legal implications of starting to change some of these definitions, which they did, in ? If they did, what did they consider in terms of Mr. Bigras' amendment?