I should defend the clerk at this point.
When witnesses are invited, we always say that if they have written material, we need it to be in the clerk's hands as soon as possible so we can deliver it to the members and they can read it ahead of time. I can only say that in 15 years here, that request has probably been made four or five times every single year.
Again, we try, and I know the clerk tries, to live with that, and for various reasons, many times it doesn't happen. I know that Norm will make that request each time and try to do that.
The big thing, too, is to get it translated. It can't be handed out until it's translated. Many times we get it in only one official language, so there's time lost getting it translated and so on.
But that's a reasonable request. I know that many years I would have loved to have the stuff two or three days ahead of time. We'll make that request, but I won't promise that we'll always have the material.
Did you also know—maybe you weren't here yet—with respect to Monday, that we are a little bit concerned about Minister Haché from New Brunswick? Because of the flooding of the river, the legislative assembly hall there is now under water. There's quite serious flooding going on there. So there is a slight problem. We may have one witness live and one, hopefully, by at least phone or whatever.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me here. As I indicated to the clerk, I do not have an opening statement, which is why your members do not have in hand an opening statement in both languages.
I could say just a little bit about myself and why I suspect I may have been invited here. And I'm very pleased to be here.
I am the head of a small consulting firm in Ottawa that does policy and organizational work for the Government of Canada. It has existed for 14 years. Before that, I was a senior official in the Privy Council Office, concerned with matters of government organization.
So my work both inside and outside government is largely focused on the workings of the federal government, and it was in that capacity that I served recently as a member of the green ribbon panel that was appointed by the Auditor General to look at the mandate given to the AG on matters of environment and sustainable development.
I served very happily as a member of that three-person panel. We made a report in December, which is a public document, which I think the committee is aware of, and recently, as you obviously know, the Auditor General appointed a new commissioner.
So I'm here, obviously, at the committee's disposal, not as an expert on environmental matters, although I've certainly learned a fair bit about them in doing my work as a member of the green ribbon panel, but more, I suspect, as someone who has lots of experience in the working of the federal government.
That's all I'd like to say.
Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. We thought it would be useful to inform the committee about Statistics Canada's current work on environmental statistics accounts and indicators and also to give the committee some sense of Statistics Canada's role in the world of data collection.
Statistics Canada's role in the world of data provision is simply to provide credible, neutral information at arm's length from government in support of defined policy priorities. We're committed to three central things: transparency in everything that we do; adherence to established and publicly known quality standards; and freedom from any sort of interference, real or perceived, from any particular stakeholder group.
With this in mind, let me tell you a little bit about our environmental statistics program. We've been working on environmental statistics since the 1970s, which is probably something that many people don't know. So it's not a completely new program, but it is new in the sense that it has expanded a lot in the last 10 years or so.
The program today contains four broad elements connected to what we do on environment statistics: (1) a growing set of environmental surveys; (2) a set of environmental accounts, where we take data from a variety of different sources, some from our surveys but also some from other departments, and organize them in a fashion that makes them coherent with economic and other statistics; (3) some environment and sustainable development indicators that we compile jointly with Environment Canada and Health Canada; and (4), a number of analytical products that we produce regularly.
We think of ourselves as having a broad mandate to cover essentially all linkages between human activity and the environment. But we try to focus on the immediate linkages between human activities and the environment. We generally steer clear of measures that would be considered purely environmental, such as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We don't get engaged in compiling that kind of information. Occasionally, however, we report that kind of information in some of our analytical products.
We have with us a list of our expanding set of environmental surveys. Roughly half of the surveys in the list are what I would call well established surveys, ones that we've been running for a number of years now. The other half are more or less new surveys that we started in the last couple of years. I'll flag the new ones for you: the household survey, where we ask households about their environmental behaviours; some new surveys on energy use; a new survey on water use; a new survey on water quality; a new survey, still in the design stage, on industrial pollution emissions. The last three—solid waste management, environment-related expenditures, and environmental technologies—are all surveys we've been doing for about the last 10 years. They are quite established and robust at this point.
I like to describe our environmental accounting program as being about three Cs: consistency, comprehensiveness, and coherence. When we build environmental accounts, we're trying to create structured environmental databases that are consistent over time—that is, they present variables that are measured the same way year after year. This is important for time series analysis. We try to present accounts that are comprehensive. For example, if we measure greenhouse gases in our account, we try to account for all the sources of greenhouse gases, not just some.
Coherence is important as well. We try to make our environmental accounts internally coherent so that different elements of the accounts speak to other parts of the accounts. But perhaps more importantly, we try to make our environmental accounts coherent with the economic accounts that are really central to Statistics Canada's work, and we think that's quite important. Linking the environment and economy through a set of statistics can lead to quite powerful analytical possibilities.
In terms of the kinds information we can get out of this set of environmental accounts, there are really three main areas. One is stocks of natural capital; so we measure timber and water and land and minerals and oil and gas, and so on, in both physical and monetary terms. Second is the use of natural capital as a source of raw materials and a sink for the wastes produced by economic activity. And third, the accounts provide estimates of expenditures undertaken by businesses and governments and households to protect natural capital.
The third broad element of the program is a set—a small set, I would say—of environmental sustainability indicators. These are produced jointly, as I said, with Environment Canada and Health Canada. They've been published since 2005, and three indicators are published. One is a more or less standard indicator of greenhouse gas emissions. The second is a less standard, slightly more interesting indicator of air quality, namely, a population-weighted average of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter concentrations. And the third is not in fact one indicator but more than 300 indicators, one to measure water quality at each of the various sites across the country where water quality is measured by the federal and provincial governments.
And finally, we have two analytical reports that we prepare on a regular basis. The first is a report that we've been doing for many, many years; in fact, it dates right back to the 1970s. It's called Human Activity and the Environment, an annual compendium of general reference data on the environment. Each year we also do an in-depth statistical portrait of a particular environmental issue in the compendium. So if you were to look at the recently released 2008 edition of this publication, you would see that its thematic article covered climate change. And we've done a variety of other issues; we've covered transportation and the environment, water, energy and the environment, and a number of others.
The second analytical report is a new one for us. It's one that we've only started publishing recently, and it is actually a quarterly bulletin of environmental statistics focused really on analytical output, with short analytical studies on environmental issues. For example, we did a little study recently on greenhouse gas emissions; but rather than looking at emissions from the standard perspective of who's producing them, we looked at emissions from the perspective of what demand for products is actually leading to the emissions of greenhouse gases. So that turned the traditional greenhouse gas emissions story a little bit on its head.
Like all programs, the program has strengths and weaknesses. I like to think there are more strengths than weaknesses—but some days, I'm not so sure. If you look at the strengths, I think the program is well founded conceptually. What I mean by that is that in some sense we know what we'd like to be measuring in terms of the environment and the economy, and what we'd like to be measuring is quite consistent with international best practices in environmental statistics. Also, we have in place the basic building blocks of that environmental information system. We have a good and expanding set of surveys; we have a set of environmental accounts; and we have some environmental indicators.
But the gaps in the program are not insubstantial, and I've listed some of them here. And I would emphasize that this isn't really a comprehensive list, but includes some of the more important gaps.
We don't know as much about water quantity and water quality as we should.
We don't know very much about fish, and when I say “we”, I'm talking about Statistics Canada. I'm not necessarily labelling the Government of Canada as being ignorant about fish in general; certainly DFO knows quite a lot about fish, but I'm talking about what we've done in terms of our environmental statistics and accounts.
Air pollution is not nearly as well covered in the system as it should be. Neither is water pollution. Land areas, other than agricultural and urban land, are not well covered. And ecosystems are, I would say, practically not covered at all.
So those are some of the gaps that exist.
Finally, I'll simply leave you with a thought about how Statistics Canada could fit in, in a broader role, with respect to sustainable development information. I'll simply say that StatsCan is prepared to provide whatever data the government may require for reporting on sustainable development, and of course we do so in keeping with our principles as an arm's-length supplier of statistics and information.
I'll leave it at that, Mr. Chair. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm going to make four or five opening points. I'm sorry I couldn't have a written presentation, but the time between my invitation and my appearance was too rapid to allow the production of a written document.
I'll start by saying a few things about myself, because this is the first time that I've met most of you.
My speciality is governance for sustainable development. In other words, how do you reform the structures and processes of government in order to promote environmental and sustainable development issues? I've a BA in political science from McGill, a PhD from Oxford. For many years I lived in the United Kingdom--20 years--where I was at the department of politics, in Sheffield, which is one of the top three or four political science schools in the U.K. I've been back in Canada for not quite four years, and I'm now at Carleton University, where I have a Canada research chair in governance for sustainable development. So the sorts of things that you're talking about here are exactly the kinds of things I write articles about and go to conferences about and so on.
Basically what I'm interested in particularly is advanced industrialized countries. Of course, sustainable development is also about developing countries, but I'm interested in the rich countries and how, over the past 20 years, the rich countries have begun to adjust governance structures and processes and policy in order to deal with a new set of emerging challenges. In particular, my work over the last few years has been concentrated around the sustainable energy policy and climate change. For instance, I'm working on an international project now on carbon capture and storage, where we're comparing the politics and policy of carbon capture and storage in about seven developed countries plus the European Union as a unit.
So that's me.
Now I just want to make a few general comments, but I hope that in the questions there'll be a chance to pursue some more details and so on with the matter that you have before you.
The first thing I want to say is that I think it's fairly clear that in the next few decades—three decades, four decades, five decades—we have to effect a fundamental transformation in the way the economies and societies interact in developed countries. Modern environmental policy dates from about 1968 to 1970. In those four decades since that time--just about four decades--an enormous amount has been accomplished in the developed countries. On the other hand, overall, the human burden placed on ecosystems continues to grow and many measures of global environmental equality are deteriorating, though there are specific improvements in specific places dealing with specific problems, particularly the problem of climate change.
The most recent estimates suggest that probably the rich countries have to reduce their emissions by something like 80% to 90% over the next four and a half decades. That means a significant industrial transformation. In that transformation government has an important role to play. Government isn't the whole story, but there are things governments can do to help facilitate the kind of change we need.
It's basically two decades since the Brundtland report first made the idea of sustainable development internationally known, if you want. At least since the Rio Earth Summit governments of most of the countries of the world have formally signed on to this as a good idea. Now, that in itself is remarkable, because new normative principles don't come on to the political agenda and get adopted all around the world very often. Human rights is one, and there's a long story in which human rights gradually became an accepted international norm, which doesn't mean everybody respects human rights. Sustainable development is another example of such an emerging norm.
Now, one key principle--not the only one--of sustainable development is this idea of integration: integrating environmental, social, and economic decision-making or, particularly in the rich countries, integrating the environment into economic decision-making. Everybody signs on to that, but in practice we have enormous difficulty in changing our institutions so that this actually takes place. That is to say we consider all these dimensions early on in the development process. Still, governments around the world are struggling with it, and some progress has been made. I'll just throw out two examples—which you probably all have heard of, but I think are worth mentioning—of institutions trying to move forward in this area of integration and institutionalizing sustainable development.
One, of course, is the recent U.K. climate change bill, where the proposal is to have five-year annual carbon budgets that look forward, basically, to mid-century in terms of the reductions, so there are both a long-term perspective and immediate objectives. Every five years these will be reviewed by Parliament, with an independent agency a bit like the idea of a central bank, though not quite so independent and important, but nevertheless reviewing progress and giving independent judgments.
Another example you've probably heard about is the Swedish national environmental objectives. They have this integrated set of 16 objectives that start out very broad—clean water for all Swedes—but then become very concrete in terms of particular concentrations of substances in different sorts of waters.These are disaggregated across the country, so that each municipality knows what it has to do for the next five or ten years in order to realize this objective.
Sustainable development strategies are another way of embedding this sort of integrative approach. There are lots of different international experiences, with varying degrees of success, with these sorts of sustainable development strategies. Here are just a few things they can accomplish, and you're probably aware of them already, but I think they're important to emphasize.
One is that they allow decision-makers to back off a little bit and look at things from the perspective of the longer term, not just four or five years, but 10, 15, 25 years, or beyond. They also allow the formulation of shared objectives, goals, and targets, so one can measure whether one is moving away or moving towards one's objective. One also can come back later and say, well, we picked the wrong goal, but it's better to do that explicitly and then draw lessons from it. Measurements and monitoring, which we heard about, are very important because they allow you to realize where you're going or not going.
Also sustainable development strategies allow the public to be involved to some extent, because the debates about them are in Parliament and in the press, and to regularly come up to speed and re-interrogate themselves on where we're going.
Finally, I'll mention the iterative character of these strategies. What's important, obviously, is not the strategy document, but a process where political institutions come back and think again about where we're headed and whether that is where we want to go.
For all these reasons, I think the bill you're considering is an important one, and in the questions I'd be happy to be drawn out more on various aspects of how this is exactly formulated.
I do want to add just one little caution, however, which is that although they can do a lot of things, sustainable development strategies are not the answer. It's not as if you get a really good sustainable development strategy process going and everything's going to then get sorted out. There are lots of reasons why this is so. One, of course, is that in a sense political leaders, and including people like you, have to actually take the issues up and care about them. It's quite possible to have a smoothly functioning formal process that is totally meaningless. It just churns out glossy pamphlets every few years, which everybody signs off on and is totally divorced from actually deciding what's important, what the goals are that we want to attain.
I think one other thing to say is that a sustainable development strategy, at least of all the kinds we've seen so far in the developed countries, is not a fully integrated, comprehensive planning process that absorbs all strategic decision-making about the environment. It can't do that. It is a process that goes on that allows faire le point, to draw the line under certain things, to focus on certain issues. But of course decision-making is also going on at various layers of government. It's going on with other issues such as climate change, on many specific issues that can eventually be integrated into this process, but they're not subsumed into it by political fiat.
Thank you very much, witnesses. It's good to see most of you again.
An hon. member: It's good to see them all.
Mr. David McGuinty: It's good to see all of you.
I'd like to get a better perspective--your perspectives, particularly, Professor Meadowcroft and Mr. Mitchell, to begin.
Mr. Mitchell, I think your introduction was far too modest. I've always understood you to be one of the leading authorities on the machinery of government in Canada. Welcome to this committee.
I think we would all recognize that the system as it is presently constituted is imperfect. It's a wonderful start. There has been a lot of investment. We've made great progress. We have a commissioner, for example; most countries don't. We have sustainable development strategies; the vast majority of countries don't. We've made considerable progress, I think, in the last decade or so. I think we also all recognize that there are lingering questions around the connection between the role of the commissioner and the role, for example in this case, of a central agency like the Privy Council Office.
If I could start with you, Mr. Mitchell, we're trying to get a better sense on this side of the table as to whether you believe that as it's presented.... I'm assuming everyone has read this bill thoroughly. I hope the amended version was presented to you. Just so you know, it's chiefly different because we have excised all those passages that call for an independent commissioner. I'm not sure what version was sent by the clerk to you, but--
A witness: There were two versions.
Mr. David McGuinty: Two versions? Okay.
Well, there's still the role of the commissioner in the text you'll be getting here. So we'll proceed.
We're trying to get a better picture of this. We would all agree that the sustainable development strategies have not been perfect. And we've heard it repeatedly.
Mr. Mitchell, you have just had the privilege of performing a great service on the green ribbon panel.
As presented, i.e. this notion of a special committee at PCO, of landing this issue squarely in the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, and how it then connects to the office of the commissioner and the related and ancillary duties of the commissioner to pick up and do better, can you give us your experienced judgment here? So many of us have felt that the SD reports haven't been grounded in real authority. For that matter, there have been a lot of questions about who's really in charge in the federal system. There has been great reluctance expressed by Environment Canada, for example, over the years about wanting to become the “enviro cop” and driving these issues, and whether it is better to elevate it in PCO, as presented by my colleague Mr. Godfrey.
So I'd like your first reactions, Mr. Mitchell and Professor Meadowcroft, on the structure as presented.
May I follow up, then? Mr. Mitchell, I'm just going to abbreviate your reasoning for not compelling a mandatory committee. I think I can distill it to one word, which is flexibility for future prime ministers and so on.
When you look back at the history of sustainable development--I'm not going to call it a movement, I'm going to call it a transition--the sustainable development transition, when you go back to 1987, 1988, 1992, there was an understanding that if we, as nation states, were going to operationalize this concept in meaningful terms and in meaningful ways, there could only be, in the Canadian context for example, as we signed on to in 1992 under Mr. Mulroney in Rio, one minister with ultimate responsibility for this issue and that had to be the Prime Minister.
Now, if it's not this structure...because, Professor Meadowcroft, I was on the receiving end for five years of kids coming to see me in my office, when I was the president of the National Round Table, begging me to help coach them through their SDS drafting. I can tell you that I completely support what you're saying, and that's exactly where it is today, because I still get the calls.
The question is, if it's not going to be grounded in the central agency of the PCO, which steers and does not row, with ultimate accountability, where will it be grounded?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to thank the witnesses for being with us today.
Everyone agrees that we need to establish a sustainable development strategy, and that this strategy must come from the senior levels of government. Unless I am mistaken, 25 years ago, the Prime Minister's Office issued a directive which, in principle, forces departments to carry out a strategic environmental assessment. As far as I know, the directive starts at the top and it is supposed to filter down. You have worked with the Commissioner of the Environment and I still remember the tile of one of the chapters, which was: “Strategic Environmental Assessment”. The Department of Finance is dragging its feet. But, the fact is that this directive has been in place for 25 years now, and has been renewed two or three times.
There is a commitment at senior levels, but there is no implementation further down the ladder. So, the question is: we may well talk about a national sustainable development strategy that casts a wide net, but should we not be ensuring that strategic environmental assessment is a legal obligation? There has to be an obligation—not in the form of a directive, but in a form that can give it greater weight. Can you tell me whether, in some countries, such an approach has been favoured as a means of forcing departments to carry out a strategic environmental assessment? We may well talk about strategy, and departments can always develop them, but in actual fact, if there is no legal obligation, I am not convinced it will go very far.
The answer to that depends on the statistical area concerned. In the case of social and economic statistics, there is clearly very close cooperation between the Institut de la statistique du Québec, or ISQ, and Statistics Canada. There is practically ongoing data sharing between those two institutions.
However, our collaboration as regards environmental data is only just beginning. I have just signed with the ISQ—I believe it was last week—a data sharing agreement relating to one of our new surveys. The cooperative mechanisms that have been in place in the economic and social fields for a very long time are now starting to be applied to the environmental sector.
In terms of data sharing between the federal government and the provinces with respect to what I would call scientific data—for example, water quality, air quality, and so on—Environment Canada is really the department that enters into such agreements for the purpose of ensuring effective data sharing. To date, Statistics Canada has not been very involved in that. However, because we cooperate with Environment Canada and Health Canada through a project dealing with environmental sustainability indicators, we are now starting to get more involved. At the same time, these cooperative efforts between the federal government and the provinces are still within the purview of Environment Canada.
Does that answer your question?
Mr. Meadowcroft, your comment on carbon capture and storage fascinated me, and I hope I allow enough time for some further comments on that. It's one of the solutions that I think the world is counting on. I think you said you had seven different countries you were looking at, so hopefully I'll allow enough time to discuss that.
We have before us today. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Meadowcroft, I'm going to be asking you to provide some input to this committee as to your opinions of this bill.
I think you've received the original bill and then a bill with the changes proposed by the Liberals. I'm going to ask you not to comment on that second one, because in fact we each have amendments we're going to be making, and the proposals from the Liberals at this point are not the relevant pieces of work we're dealing with right now. It may give you an idea of the direction being proposed by one of the parties around this table, but what we're discussing today has been sent from the House, and it is , unamended.
How would you suggest that be changed? I took a lot of notes as you were speaking. Mr. Mitchell, you said it could be this bill or another, but that the focus needs to require the government to include... I think you agreed with Mr. Meadowcroft that it's an integral part of the process that we look at the economic, social, and environmental components as the government does anything.
The most recent report we had from the commissioner reported on 14 different departments; nine of them were unsatisfactory and five of them are satisfactory now. We have a lot of work to do. As has been pointed out over the last 15 years, governments have not received a good report from the commissioner. Is that because of the structure, or is it the lack of will? What needs to change? How can this bill before us, ...?
That's what this committee is tasked with. We're not to send back to the House some window dressing, another bill to make it appear that we care about the environment, but something of substance that will have an effect we all would like to see, so how does it need to change? Do we need to have adequate input?
We have this meeting and one more. That will be a total of four meetings with witnesses, and then we go into clause-by-clause consideration. Are we rushing it, or can we do it in that short period of time and come up with something that will be good and have a positive effect?
In response to the member's question, I have enormous respect for the author of the bill, so I hope the record will show that, but I can offer the following comments.
First of all, I'm not sure this bill works with the definition of a sustainable development strategy that I would use. It seems to be more like a strategy for addressing significant environmental problems, which to my mind is a different thing from an SDS as I've always understood it. So I think the first thing the committee might want to think about is, are you working with a definition of an SDS that, in your view, is the right one?
The second point is that, as I mentioned, I'm personally not keen on Parliament legislating how the cabinet system works, so I'm not sure you need that. In fact, I would advise against it. I don't see anything wrong with insisting that there should be a national sustainable development strategy; let me be clear on that. So I think the basic intent of the bill is one that I would personally support.
The third point—and I think the chair mentioned this—is that I'm actually not keen on an “independent commissioner”. That's a separate issue, but I gather that's off the table, so I won't say anything about that.
Briefly, with respect to what a federal sustainable development strategy should have, I don't think it should be a comprehensive plan for the whole government's activities, as I think Mr. Meadowcroft said. You need to select what it's going to deal with. It has to deal with major objectives and issues of the government, much more like the kinds of things you see in a Speech from the Throne or in the major features of a budget, rather than a plan for running the whole government. It can't include everything. That's the first thing.
Secondly, I think it needs to talk about objectives and how you're going to measure performance against those objectives.
Thirdly, it should create a document that gives useful guidance to individual departments and agencies so that they can hook their activities, or their major activities, into that major strategy.
Then finally, I think it should talk to some extent about standards and goals against which you can measure the performance of the government in fulfilling the objectives of the SDS that you've set out in your bill.
Keep it simple, have the right form of SDS, talk about meaningful goals, and then hold the government to account for meeting those objectives.
Yes, I actually agree with most of those points. I think the basic intent of the bill is very valuable, because Canada has talked about having a national strategy for a long time, but nothing has been forthcoming.
I think you asked whether the problem is the mechanisms or something else, the political will or whatever. Both have been problems, but I definitely think the mechanism, as it exists so far, is flawed because each department, kind of in isolation, develops its strategy. You need an overarching vision.
If you're talking about an actual strategy, the point about having a handful of key strategic priorities is absolutely critical. If one looks at the international experience of these strategies, the ones that have been pretty useless are ones that have tried to integrate every single thing a government could ever do on the basis that “Oh, we're trying to integrate everything”. So you say everything. You say down to—not quite—“reduce the rate of parking offences in the city” or something like that.
What you want is a strategy. That means saying that three, four, or five issues are absolutely strategic if we want to get Canada on track. That means taking the political choices: climate change, water, soil erosion, or whatever they are. I think that's really fundamental. But the absence of that means that some departments do well, as you said, and others don't do well. But there's no overarching countrywide vision.
One other thing I would say is that the question of engagement with other jurisdictions is very important in the Canadian context. That has to be handled in this bill in a way that will build consensus and a cooperation between governments, and not encourage bickering like “somebody's sticking their finger into my jurisdiction” or “keep your finger out, because that's my jurisdiction”.
Now, this is just a throwaway comment, but because I lived in Europe for a long time, I watched the gradual evolution of the European Union environmental policy, where the union is taking an increasingly active role. I have to say that in some respects the independent countries of the EU achieve better cooperation on some environmental issues than Canada does with its federal government and its diverse provincial governments. One concrete example is on climate change. With the burden-sharing agreement that the EU worked out way back when at Kyoto, which divided targets so the enthusiastic countries took big targets and countries that didn't care, like Spain, basically got a growth target, that political agreement that will share the burden allowed them to achieve a lot--not perfectly, but a lot. But in Canada—where, for all sorts of historic reasons you all know about, it didn't work out—in fact you couldn't move forward because everybody was in their own corner.
I just think that issue is important in the actual wording of the bill, that it be done in such a way as to draw in the other key actors. On the other hand, you don't want to set it up so that if one actor says, “No, we don't want to join”, then nothing can go. So it's delicate.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to say that I am pleased to see that our English-speaking witnesses are so articulate in French.
I feel like trying to do the same.
Voices: Ah, ah!
Hon. Geoff Regan: No, it's just too painful.
Mr. Chairman, through you, Mr. Meadowcroft talked about the need for fundamental change in the relationship between people and the environment. I don't have the exact words here, but he talked about the fact that we need an industrial transformation to reduce our emissions by 80% to 90%.
Mr. Mitchell, do you agree that this is needed? And if so, we're talking really about a fundamental change. I guess the question is this: without the kind of structure that is suggested by this bill, within cabinet, without the kind of structural change that happened when the Treasury Board was created, for example, how else do we get there? I mean, you say this is a fundamental change; it certainly is, but isn't there a need for fundamental change in relation to how this matter is dealt with?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome to all our witnesses.
My question is addressed to Mr. Mitchell. You raised a matter of interest to me. We have a bill before us. I believe you had an opportunity to examine the bill before coming here. I would like to refer you to subclause 5(2). Because I am a lawyer, I am a member of the Justice Committee, but since it is not meeting currently, I am available to deal with the environment. I would like to read you that clause, just to be sure that we all understand each other:
||(2) The Government of Canada therefore adopts the following goals for Canada with respect to sustainable development:
Here I would like to jump to subparagraph (ii), which reads as follows:
||(ii) by making efficient and effective use of energy and resources,
That is a provincial responsibility. Then, in subparagraph (iii), it says:
||(iii) modifying production and consumption patterns to mimic nature's closed loop cycles, thus dramatically reducing waste and pollution,
Part of that is within the purview of the provinces.
In subparagraph (v), it reads:
||(v) exercising good water stewardship [...]
I am referring here to the province of Quebec.
||[...] by protecting and restoring the quantity and quality of fresh water in Canadian ecosystems;
That is a provincial responsibility.
Further on, in subclause (c), it reads:
||(c) Canadian agriculture should provide nutritious and healthy foods, while safeguarding the land, water and biodiversities;
As far as I know, that is a matter that falls within the purview of the provinces. According to the civil law, the province owns the land, the mines and the water.
Then, in subclause (d), it talks about protecting ecosystems and, in the last line, it refers to “parks and wilderness areas;”.
Are we talking about federal parks there, or provincial parks? I live right next to a provincial park. What does this refer to? Do you see what I'm getting at? My question will come later, as a way of guiding you.
Then, in subclause (e), it says:
||(e) Canadian cities should become vibrant, clean [...]
As far as I know, that is a municipal responsibility. Municipal bylaws are not in our area of jurisdiction.
My question for you is a simple one. If we pass a law—you beat me to the punch when you used this term, but I think you correctly read my thoughts—there is a legislative obligation. That means that if I dictate a law on sustainable development, if I start playing around with the water, we will begin to have problems in Quebec. If I start to play around with the forest, I will have problems in Lac Saint-Jean. If I start to play around with the mines, I will have problems in just about every province of the country. So, if I draft a piece of legislation, I am forcing someone to do something. Some provinces will cooperate, but others will dig in their heels because they see it as the government interfering in provincial areas of jurisdiction. The provinces will react very badly to that kind of situation, because they each have their own issues, either because of oil or water. A province does not like the federal government telling it that 194 of its lakes are polluted with blue algae, and then giving it money along with instructions about what to do. We also know that money is transferred to the provinces, but they do what they want with that money afterwards.
So, what should we do with this bill, which seems to be well written, but directly interferes in areas of provincial jurisdiction?
I would draw your attention to the items listed in Column 2 of Schedule 1. It talks about improving environmental efficiency. It talks about water consumption—that is a provincial responsibility. It talks about materials consumption—whatever that is—and energy consumption—once again, this is a provincial responsibility.
These are major issues. We are opening up a can of worms with this. In a way, this almost looks like a Soviet-style plan.
You made an important point earlier. You seem to agree…We all agree that the environment needs to be protected, but we don't want to create a worse problem than the one that already exists. We have ten provinces, three territories, and they all have their specific areas of jurisdiction.
Try and imagine what it was like when the First Nations negotiated the James Bay Agreement. Have you ever seen First Nations people negotiate? Well, I can tell you that's a lot harder than you may think. You will see what they say about it here; they will pay no attention to it. That is why I am interested in hearing your opinion. Ultimately, if we pass this, we have to expect that problems will arise sooner or later.