I will begin. We are slightly constrained by time because we have votes today.
I welcome our guests. Everybody knows who they are, but I'll introduce them formally in a minute.
Because of our water problem last Monday, we do have witnesses coming on Monday, and we have actually added a couple of witnesses we wouldn't have had before. They will be coming on Monday. As a result, I'm suggesting that although we obviously should hear the witnesses first, in order to give the clerk and everybody else sufficient time, we need to move the deadline for amendments to Wednesday, probably. Would that be long enough?
Anticipating the point you're about to make, I'm going to make a suggestion that I have discussed with various other parties, the clerk, and with the legislative drafters.
The bulk of the amendments have already been submitted to the drafting people, and negotiations are going on now as we speak. We're still waiting on the Conservatives, but if we could get the bulk of the amendments in earlier and leave the possibility for amendments to be submitted on the Tuesday before the following Wednesday, I am assured that they have enough capacity at the drafting level to be able to handle that and circulate them on Wednesday morning, so we could proceed with clause-by-clause study on Wednesday afternoon and extend if necessary. We would be able to meet our deadlines and be done before the break. That would allow us to get back on the path of the other things we have to do, notably estimates.
This is all doable. It's not such a great burden. I have checked with other parties, and they seem to be agreeable. The earlier we can get amendments in, the easier this process will be.
We do have it on the agenda for the steering committee, so let's deal with that then and hear our witnesses.
Before I do that, I would like all of us to take a moment to remember Charles Caccia. Charles was, of course, chair of this committee. He was chair when I started on this committee, and of course he served in Parliament 36 years as the member for Davenport.
I can say a lot about Charles. I think when I first came on this committee in late 2000, Charles knew immediately that he didn't like me and I decided I didn't like him. Over time, over the year or so as we worked through species-at-risk legislation and so on, Charles and I grew closer and closer in terms of respect for each other. I think Mr. Bigras would agree that that happened, and Mr. Cullen will remember Charles very closely, and of course Mr. Godfrey and most of the rest of you.
He had great passion; he had great dedication. He was very proud of the creation of an environment commissioner, so it's even fitting today that we have you here to pay tribute to Charles.
I don't want to belabour this, but I guess the best time probably for you and I, John, was when Charles set up a debate on climate change at the University of Ottawa. Charles said, “Bob, you're probably going to have a pretty rough time here. It's not going to be a friendly audience for you, but I think you'll do okay.” At the end, he said, “You know, both you and John did really well, and I don't think there was a winner or a loser.”
So that was Charles, always willing to listen to all sides but very definite in what he believed and how he ran this committee. I know as you do that he attended a number of our sessions, even up to probably up to a year ago, and a few weeks ago, and always watched this committee closely. He'd phone me sometimes three or four times a week to advise me on what should happen and shouldn't happen. So I feel that we've all lost a real friend, and certainly someone who I had a great deal of respect for.
I would propose that we move a motion of condolence to his wife. I would be more than happy to deliver that tomorrow. As you know, between two and four o'clock respects can be paid to his wife and family, and certainly I'll take advantage of that opportunity. On behalf of this committee, I'd very much like to have a unanimous motion to extend our condolences to his wife.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: I'll ask the clerk then to prepare that and deliver it tomorrow on your behalf.
All of us have memories of Charles, and I don't think we all can share them at this point, but let's take a minute just to remember him.
[A moment of silence observed]
The Chair: Thank you.
I think it's fitting as well that Karen Kraft Sloan hunted me down on Saturday, when Charles passed away, to let me know. It probably shows some of the compatibility that we developed, and comradeship and friendship, and so on, within the committee over the years, that someone as avid as Karen Kraft Sloan would be the one to chase me down and advise me about Charles's passing. That says a lot, I think, for what has happened in this place.
Anyway, I would like to welcome Sheila Fraser, of course, a good friend of ours, who has been here a number of times, our Auditor General; and our new environment commissioner, Scott Vaughan.
What we'd like is just a brief presentation.
Members, I would suggest that we keep this as brief as possible so that we can get on with the other business.
We did allocate 90 minutes, but if we can cut that to 60 minutes or less, I'm sure it will help you as well, and we'll move on. It's not that we're not interested; it's just that time is a problem to us, as always.
Let me ask you to make a brief presentation; then we'll ask questions.
I thank you for this opportunity to discuss the results of the review conducted by the green ribbon panel and to introduce our new Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. Scott Vaughan, to the committee.
As you are all aware, the Auditor General Act was amended in 1995, and those amendments gave us specific responsibilities with respect to environmental and sustainable development issues and notably created the position of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Twelve years after our act was amended, and consistent with past reviews of the office's other products to help us better serve Parliament, in Spring 2007, I asked an independent panel of experts to review the environment and sustainable development practice of our office.
The members of the panel were chosen for their valuable knowledge of environmental and sustainable development issues. They are Elizabeth Dowdeswell, James Mitchell and Ken Ogilvie.
The panel's report, Fulfilling the Potential, was presented to me and then provided to you with my responses earlier this year. The panel concluded that the Office of the Auditor General and the commissioner have had a positive impact on the federal government's management of environmental and sustainable development issues. It also emphasized that we have developed a strong domestic and international reputation as a centre of excellence in environmental auditing.
While the panel recognized our good work, it also pointed out several ways for us to strengthen our practice for dealing with environmental and sustainable development issues. The office has agreed with all nine recommendations contained in the report and that are presented as appendix I.
Among the more significant recommendations, the panel noted that we should make full use of the commissioner's existing mandate, using all our valuable tools, to draw parliamentary and public attention to key environmental and sustainable development issues.
It also recommended that we articulate how sustainable development will be effected into our work plan. We are currently working on various options that will help us respond to both these recommendations.
I committed to revisiting our strategy to implement our environmental and sustainable development mandate and to formalize our new strategy within one year of the new commissioner's appointment. During the course of this review, we will be contacting parliamentarians for their views.
I know that the committee has shown much interest in the reporting of the commissioner's work. Let me assure you that the commissioner will continue to issue a separate and distinct report or reports. We have been experimenting with different tabling approaches and we will continue to do in the coming year—all in an effort to increase awareness of our work.
Now, Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased to present to the committee the newly appointed Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. Scott Vaughan, who has been in the office only since Monday. He was selected following a rigorous process and, you will see, is eminently qualified for the position. Mr. Vaughan is an environmental economist with many years of experience. You will find details on his career path in the news release that is attached to this statement, which was made public today.
I will now ask Mr. Vaughan to address the committee.
Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting me here today.
I am delighted to have been named commissioner and feel honoured to join such a talented team of professionals in the Office of the Auditor General. I have the privilege of building on a very strong foundation that is based on the accomplishments of Ron Thompson, of his colleagues within the department, and of his predecessors.
I hope that my experience will contribute to advancing environmental protection and sustainable development priorities in Canada, including drawing upon lessons and best practices from the international sphere.
Let me highlight two issues briefly this afternoon. First, the sustainable development strategies prepared by the different agencies and departments are not working. I look forward to working with this committee and with all departments and agencies to frame some of the parameters needed to move forward.
Second, the environmental petitions process helps build a bridge between the important work of the government and the concerns of Canadians everywhere—a good start has been made, and there may still be opportunities to improve the profile of the petitions process, give voice to those now unheard and ensure that follow-up responses reach those concerned in a timely and meaningful way.
I look forward to meeting with all members of the committee in the coming weeks. I will be seeking your views on how to translate the recommendations of the Green Ribbon Panel into actions to provide parliamentarians with focused, timely, and relevant assessments of the challenges regarding Canada's environmental commitments.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you. I look forward to working with you to advance the important mandate of this office.
Thank you very much for coming in, Ms. Fraser.
Mr. Vaughan, congratulations on your appointment.
I just have factual questions, housekeeping questions.
I see in the recommendations from the green ribbon panel report, Ms. Fraser, that the commissioner be appointed for a fixed seven-year, non-renewable term. Is that the case with Mr. Vaughan?
My second question is to Mr. Vaughan directly.
Mr. Vaughan, in your opening remarks you really caught my attention, because in the third paragraph you said “the sustainable development strategies prepared by different agencies and departments are not working”. This committee has put a lot of energy and a lot of time into examining the role of the office you now occupy. It voted in favour of an independent commissioner. The government opposed the notion of an independent commissioner reporting directly to Parliament. And we're now really in the thick of Mr. Godfrey's bill, which the official opposition thinks will help strengthen the hands of the officers inside the federal structure who are responsible for delivering on sustainability strategies and so forth.
I know it's way too early to ask you to comment on either Mr. Godfrey's bill or the independence of the office you are now occupying, but I would say just as a point of introduction, it's an issue that's not gone away. There are many hundreds of Canadians who still write to me asking me the outcome of that motion that was passed here in this committee before the government prorogued Parliament. So there's a lot of appetite and a lot of interest in how the office is occupied and your legislative responsibilities and so on.
So I want to thank you for at least tackling this very forthrightly by simply coming out and saying these strategies aren't working, and I hope there will be other times to have a more detailed conversation.
I also really want to commend you for your overture to meet with us to have a conversation about how we can improve the situation in Canada.
Those are my remarks, Mr. Chair. I asked Mr. Regan to pick up for a few minutes.
I think the visions set out by the Auditor General as well as the recommendations contained in the green ribbon panel's report are ones I agree with, every one of them. I looked very closely at the green ribbon panel's report before having the discussion on moving into this post.
In terms of forward looking and backwards looking--that's what I think you're getting at--I think the main role of the commissioner's position, as I understand it, is on the audit side, and I think that was addressed directly in the green ribbon report. And I think a wealth of invaluable reports have come out from the commissioner's office, most recently the March status report.
If I understand your second point--can you then move forward from those audit reports--I think the auditing role plays an indispensable role in looking at, for example, advocacy and good management and good management of federal policies related to supporting environmental protection and sustainable development.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Vaughan, I would like to start by congratulating you on your appointment. I would also like to congratulate Ms. Fraser on her choice.
Two things struck me when I read your biography and learned of your professional background. To begin with, you are a former head of the Organization of American States, where you were a specialist in sustainable development matters. Among other things, that organization sees to it that there is some level of integration within the Americas.
You also worked at the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which was created after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed so as to provide for better environmental protection in international agreements such as, for example, those regarding north-south trade.
There is a lot debate on the subject of a partnership on North American security and prosperity. How does your past experience tie into the integration of the Americas and the increasing dialogue on a partnership on prosperity and security? Some people fear that there will be a streamlining of our environmental regulations and laws with the southern states and that there will be a lesser focus on the environment in these negotiations, including those which may take place between the north and the south on the topic of water.
Can you confirm that you will be an environmental policy watchdog at a time when there is an increased focus on discussions over the economic integration of the Americas?
Ms. Fraser, welcome back.
Mr. Vaughan, congratulations and welcome to the committee. It is appreciated that you've come to the committee so early in your tenure, and it certainly won't be the last.
A sort of frame for my questioning today is around the advocacy of your role in terms of the tone and tenor of the conversation in the public that comes out of this place. I think this time is an extraordinarily critical time, and it has been for a number of years now, and the role you're playing is one important voice--often a voice in the wilderness--of accountability when it comes to the government's performance on the environment, which is obviously important to Canadians.
First of all, Ms. Fraser, I hope this statement wasn't vetted by anybody and I hope that no future statements ever face such a vetting by any spin doctors. Good.
Mr. Vaughan, we've had much debate--Ms. Fraser and this committee and individually--around the difference between advocacy and auditing: the advocacy of programs and capacity of programs to deliver, versus the traditional role of auditing the past, what's happened. It seems to me there's a spectrum, within auditors and between commissioners of the environment around the world, as to where they fall. Some are framed often as more traditional--the audit, the look back--and one by design of their role plays much more of an advocacy role on government policy. If you had to place yourself on that spectrum, where would you be?
Let me perhaps make this specific, which might help me understand. The unfortunate thing with a lot of the terminology around this is that it becomes very vague for Canadians. Words get thrown around by politicians and those auditing the politicians, and it sometimes doesn't translate.
Take climate change as an example. You, as the commissioner, are auditing the government's performance on some measures they've done on climate change. A story on governments reporting to the United Nations--like the one that came up today--is now under investigation by the UN. It's connected to what you're auditing, that the government is failing to meet targets. At the same time, a piece comes forward that says an outside body--the UN, in this case--is raising serious questions about Canada's actual capturing of those numbers.
Do you see how your audit can stray over to “and the government going forward shall not do this any more”? This is causing the problem, and it becomes an advocacy role to correct it in the future, as opposed to a pure audit. Because what's happening right now, and I don't know if there is a fine line between these things....
I see you as a spokesperson, in a sense. It's as much about how you present your information as it is the information you are presenting. We've seen a spectrum of commissioners with very different styles, very different personalities, and that has an effect. That has an effect on their effectiveness and also on the effect of our committee and the government.
When I'm looking at something specific like that--and maybe this is something we develop over time--I'm trying to find out what your tendency is. Are you comfortable with some of the auditing we've seen from New Zealand or Great Britain--that while auditing says we see a government plan for the future, we have concerns about their management of the information, because we don't think they're going to get there. That's suddenly an advocacy role about the future. Does that bother you, as an auditor?
Let me ask you this, then. There was a question put to you about a current piece of legislation, which your predecessor commented on to this committee and said “I like this piece of legislation. I think it's helpful.” Is that not advocacy of policy?
I'm getting confused as to where the line is. This is a bill that doesn't yet exist. The questions were immediately put to the commissioner because he was in the bill; the role was in the bill. But then when questions were put about policy, to my mind--I'm trying to be objective--it very much became advocating: “I like this bill. We think this is a good bill.”
That presents, to me, confusion. When I put forward a question, “Do intensity targets work?”--because that is the government's plan going ahead--and the audit office says, “Well, we don't want to comment on government policy”, I'm confused. It's unpredictable what kind of response I'm going to get, if you follow my logic on this.
In one moment, I get, “This is a thing that does not yet exist, and I advocate for it, as commissioner.” And then I get, “Here is yet another thing that does not yet exist, but I'm hesitant, because it's a central platform in the government's plan, which has faced a great deal of criticism. I'm going to stay away from it.” What's the difference?
This might be unfair. I apologize. You're new to the job.
I want to welcome Madam Fraser and Commissioner Vaughan. I look forward to working with you. Minister Baird just released a statement saying that accountability and oversight is an important keystone of responsible government. It's also important when it comes to ensuring the health of our environment, and that's why I look forward to working with Mr. Vaughan now and in the future.
I'm sure you've seen this document. We received this about two months ago, and we also had a report in October. At that time, we agreed to a review. In about five months, we'll be reporting back, department by department. We acknowledge that since 1995, since the establishment of the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment, there have been year after year of shortfalls. In the most recent report of two months ago, we saw that, of the 14 departments audited, five were satisfactory and nine were not. So I believe we have a lot more work to do, and I appreciate your challenges.
This is a politically charged committee, and at times there are shots that are used. Your future comments may or may not be used in that way. In the past, some comments have been turned this way to address the shortcomings of the previous government. But today I'm going to focus on where we go from here—to clean up the environment. We have a duty to make our country healthy—economically, environmentally, and socially—for this generation and those to come.
You focused on two primary topics. You said that:
||First, the sustainable development strategies prepared by different agencies and departments are not working. I look forward to working with this committee and all departments and agencies to frame some of the parameters needed to move forward. Again, within five months we'll be reporting back, and we look forward to working with you.
The second point was the environmental petition process. I found the reports from Madam Fraser's office to be interesting reading. They pointed out the importance and the level of participation in the petition process. Of the few people who are aware of this process, there were some who used it repeatedly. When you consider the number of petitions according to the multiplication factor, you find that maybe a lot of people don't know about the process. I look forward to seeing this promoted and made available to average Canadians who are concerned about what the government is doing.
I know you're not here to discuss, but it has been mentioned. My concern is that we have legislation that is well thought out and that takes the government in the right direction. Our witnesses have been very critical of this bill. Yet we're already rushing toward clause-by-clause and submitting amendments—this before we've finished hearing from the witnesses. That concerns me. But in the end, we as a Parliament are responsible for achieving something that works.
I apologize for rambling a little bit here. My question is, how important is it that we work together, as a political body, to focus on solutions that will see absolute reductions in greenhouse emissions, absolute reductions in pollution for cleaner air, cleaner water? How important is it that we focus on the technological tools we have here in Canada to help Canada and the world?
Thanks very much, witnesses, for coming today. I really appreciate it. I have always enjoyed this committee, and I actually worked on it for two years. But I'm more interested in the future, not necessarily in the past or the Liberal record, or whatever record there may be, because the health and future of Canada and Canadians depends on it.
I'm a 41-year resident of Fort McMurray, and I would say it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in the world. In fact the air quality in downtown Fort McMurray is four to ten times better than it is in downtown Toronto, as surprising as that may be. Indeed, I can still drink right from the Clearwater River, which flows through the community. So it's quite a nice place, and I would invite you to come there. If you do, I'd consider it an honour to take you around. I think that of all the times I've invited members of this committee there, only two members have ever shown up.
An hon. member: Who was that?
Mr. Brian Jean: Mr. Mills and Mr. Warawa, as shocking as that may be.
I'm interested in balance. I think you have a very tough job in front of you, because you have a situation, for instance, in the oil sands, where 500,000 jobs have been created across this country, including 85,000 jobs for workers in Ontario supplying stuff for the oil sands. It fact it's 6% of the GDP of the country.
So I'm wondering how you balance that, because your job is to monitor and report progress and to take into account economic costs and different environmental and natural resource options. Quite frankly, I think it's extremely tough. So how do you perceive this balance is going to be done? Because it really is a balancing act in your reporting.
I think you've hit the nail on the head. The issue of balance was the overarching concept of sustainable development, as articulated by the Brundtland Commission. I just spoke with Jim McNeill this morning, who was the secretary of the Brundtland Commission.
This is the issue that not only Canada, but also literally every single country is grappling with now, the issue of balance and what it means in real terms. But I think from your opening statement it's clear that Canadians are demanding and have high expectations of clean water, clean air, healthy food, and also of economic prosperity, employment and employment security. These issues of how to move forward with the trajectory of economic growth while ensuring that high standards of environmental quality are maintained are a priority of this office. It's something that's really at the forefront of our mind every single day.
Thank you very much. I appreciate that, because I think it's very important.
I have a final question. I read in your bio about one of your recent publications, and I was concerned about it. It was called “Water Privatization: The Role of the GATS and Interests of Developing Countries”. I tried to find it, but I could find it only in French, and although I'm practising my French as much as possible, I have to tell you I couldn't read it and understand it thoroughly.
First of all, do you have a copy in English? Secondly, what, in essence, is that paper driving at?
I'd be very glad to give you a copy of the paper. I'm not sure I would understand it any more. I wrote it about five years ago.
Very briefly, it was about the issue that many countries are facing on water management and the role of privatization generally. What the paper tried to look at was the conditions of ownership generally, and I think it came to the conclusion that there's no one single model. It depends not only on the country, but it also depends very much on a county and the municipalities. In some areas, for example, in Wales, the privatization experience actually led to a deterioration of water quality and higher prices. There are other experiences where there have been benefits. So really, the recommendation or the finding from the paper was that it was context-specific.
I'd be glad to give you a copy, sir.
Thank you, Francis, and Mr. Chair as well.
I want to welcome you again to our committee, as has our chair and others before me. Thank you for being here. We'll have other times and opportunities.
I gather at this point you've been in your desk long enough to have found the calculator, and maybe this question that I'm going to ask is going to take a sophisticated software program to answer. I'm interested in terms of costs for a bill like Bill . I'm wondering if in fact your office has the capacity to report on the 400 or so items listed in the schedule. I conjecture that possibly those reports would simply highlight the lack of dollars for that.
So first off, in your first couple of days on the job, have you been able to calculate the cost of Bill ? And in terms of the capacity, do you have the capacity to report on those some 400 items?
Mr. Bigras is correct. His point of order is certainly correct; we should be dealing with this motion first.
My concern is that we're going to get to 5:15 and the bells are going to ring. We leave here, we haven't decided on the deadline, therefore the deadline is today. Therefore why are we hearing the witnesses on Monday? Because you just don't do it in that order. We do want to hear those witnesses, I believe. I think there are some excellent witnesses who we have an opportunity to hear on Monday.
I would need unanimous consent, I think, to in fact overrule Mr. Bigras, because he is correct. Do we decide on extending or do we go to Mr. Bigras' motion?
Quite simply, the act of submitting amendments does not mean they have to be finally presented, because often in the course of discovering what other amendments are like, we decide it's repetitious or that this one looks better.
If parties have been submitting amendments already, and have had them drafted, it is my understanding that the Conservatives actually do have amendments ready to go. The advantage of sharing those--understanding that, of course, right up to the last minute they can be withdrawn or whatever--is that this will allow us to do some preliminary discussions.
I have shared every amendment we have put forward, by the way, with everybody, and we have received them back.
That would then mean that we would get the bulk of the work out of the way before the weekend, which makes it easier. We leave ourselves open to the possibility of putting further amendments in, based on what we hear on Monday afternoon, and it will still allow us to proceed Wednesday with the clause-by-clause, if we're willing to extend until we finish the job.
This process, if we undertake it in the right manner and with the right spirit, will allow us to get a lot of the problems out of the way because we'll be able to see what the amendments are and do some negotiating before we actually get to clause-by-clause. I would hope that it would be in that spirit, leaving the possibility open, of course, for amendments, but establishing a deadline. So basically we do it--
It sounds as if something's being rushed here for some reason, and I'm not sure why. And I apologize; I know I'm a visitor here, but I like to visit often.
How are the legislative officers going to decide whether or not these amendments are going to be in order if they don't have time to go through them?
Mr. Godfrey, I would be interested to find out how many amendments the official opposition have. From my experience with the Bloc on this committee, I know they'll double whatever you have, and the NDP will probably triple that. How many amendments are you looking at to put forward at this stage?
The problem, of course, is that it has to go through all the House process as well. It would be nice to have it done by the time we rise, clean that up and send it on its way.
I'm assuming good faith in all of this. It has been very positive to date—I want to report that. All I'm suggesting is that folks who have stuff ready to go should submit it now, understanding that there will be a deadline, which we can say is Tuesday morning or some point that allows for last-minute ones that will be altered by the evidence. So I'm not disregarding what we might be hearing, but I doubt that it's going to change....
I'm not going to, for example, re-introduce the concept of an independent commissioner. I've already taken that off the table because you folks have quite rightly criticized it.
I'm just trying to reduce the number of issues.
Just to finish, then, that's why I was suggesting the 14th. It's a logical date. We have a break, and what I was envisioning was that clause-by-clause would start on the 26th.
So the 14th, we could have a report back from the steering committee and have a good chance to discuss that. That's the day that the amendments have to be introduced. It then gives us and the department, the clerk, everybody, a good chance to look at these, and we come back ready to go, on the 26th, clause by clause, and we can work aggressively.
But to rush it—and it appears right now we're trying to rush it—we're going to make errors and it's not going to be as complete as possible.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am pleased to present this motion to the committee. I will read it first:
||That the committee recommend that the government ensure that the implementation of regulations resulting from the eventual adoption of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, not result in an increase in the proportion of Canadian corn production currently used to produce ethanol and that it be reported to the House at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Chair, the reason we are tabling this motion today, is that we hope to send a clear message to the government concerning Bill C-33, which seeks to increase the ethanol content in gasoline by 5%. Why this motion, Mr. Chair, and why do we want to ensure that this bill does not result in an increase in ethanol production from corn? Simply because this policy has contributed greatly to an increase in the world price of food commodities. Between 2003 and 2008, ethanol production rose from 212 million litres to 1.5 billion litres once the final projects for 2008 will have been carried out.
This type of policy contributes to the world food crisis, and we do not believe that Bill C-33 should heighten the current crisis.
Furthermore, it has not been proven that the use of corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions; on the contrary we believe that it is important to compare how much energy is expended to grow corn for ethanol production purposes with the energy expended by the combustion of gasoline containing ethanol.
Therefore, the energy balance of the greenhouse emissions reductions is not what we would have expected a few years ago.
Lastly, it should be kept in mind, Mr. Chair, that producing a single litre of ethanol requires 1,700 litres of fresh water and releases 12 litres of fertilizer and pesticide into the environment. Mr. Chair, this could mean negative impacts for fresh water in Quebec and Canada, and I think that it is our duty, as members of the environment committee, to ensure that this policy and Bill C-33 do not contribute to an increase in social tensions on the world stage or to an increase in environmental hazards, while making no real contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Thank you very much.
Canadian farmers are the most innovative in the world. They're more than capable of meeting our ethanol targets without affecting the amount of production that goes into food. We continue to invest in ways to increase the yields of Canadian land and in the next generation of ethanol production, such as cellulosic ethanol.
Canadian ethanol is produced from other crops, like wheat and canola, not just corn, so I'm not sure why the Bloc is singling out corn. We have also been encouraged internationally and by environmental groups to move forward on clean and renewable energy. Part of that renewable energy cycle is to renew the energy above the earth and stop taking fossil fuels from below the earth and introducing them into the atmosphere.
We've been challenged, we are taking action, and that real action is part of renewable fuels. The targets are realistic, and our plan for renewable fuels includes not just corn but many different items, such as canola and wheat--cellulosic ethanol. So we will not be supporting this.
The irony is that the NDP are now saying “Slow down the process; this is moving too quickly.” But weeks before that they were saying “Do things quickly. We've got to solve the problem with climate change.” We agree, and that is why the government is taking action. It's the right direction. I'm not sure why the Bloc is trying to jump in front of the parade and act like people are following them. This is a motion that does nothing. We need to move forward with clean energy.
I'll try to be very quick.
My understanding, first of all—and maybe the clerk or the research officer could help on this—is that only 5% of Canada's produce is going towards this. But also, 40% of the foodstuff is exported. Is that not the case, that something in the neighbourhood of 40% is actually exported?
So is this motion a result of interest in food scarcity? Because obviously we're producing much more than we utilize. Or is it the food prices? Because my understanding also is that we're talking about very minimal amounts. You look at a cereal box, and I think it's 3¢ worth of product that goes into an entire cereal box that's sold for $6 or $7.
What is the purpose of the motion, Monsieur Bigras? Is it food shortage in the world or in Canada, or what's the case?
I think Mr. Warawa raised an important question about why the Bloc is singling out corn. I think there are some very obvious answers. I think the Bloc has turned its back on corn farmers precisely at a time when they have a chance to make a buck out of the market instead of making it out of a government program.
Mr. Chair, I think the Bloc wants to pick on Ontario specifically because we're a net importer of corn from the United States, which undercuts the price of the corn our farmers grow. We finally get a chance to make some money out of this. Our farmers are looking to plant not only to meet the needs of food but for ethanol production--to do both. This is a great time in Ontario, but the Bloc wants to stick it to Ontario, and I think there's another reason why the Bloc is doing this, Mr. Chair.
I think the member should take his pet peeve to Brazil, where they're destroying rainforests in the stampede to make ethanol. That's where he can make a much greater difference, instead of picking on Ontario and specifically picking on Ontario farmers. This is not the place for this kind of emotion. I understand he may not like it. He can take his little battle somewhere else, Mr. Chair.
First of all, Mr. Chairman, I find Mr. Watson's arrogance inappropriate. If I were you I would have called him to order, and I would have called for respect towards other parliamentarians.
Secondly, the reality is that this production will be subsidized. In fact, the federal government has announced a $2.2 billion contribution over nine years to finance biofuels. The government has clearly chosen to finance corn ethanol and its producers. Sixty per cent to 70% of agricultural production in Quebec is in the animal sector, and these animals must eat corn. By this very fact, the production costs of Quebec's farmers will increase significantly.
I feel that Canada has to live up to what the international community, including the United Nations, is proposing, that is to say a moratorium on corn ethanol and biofuel production. The Americans have decided to increase their biofuel production, and they will soon be self-sufficient. I think that we will have to make strategic decisions.
What we are discussing is sustainable development strategies. If the government is being so honest with us in the opinions that it is putting forward, it should table the strategic environmental assessment that was done within the framework of Bill C-33 rather than resorting to all kinds of arguments that are just nonsense.