Once we finish Bill C-474--which we're all hoping will happen in a rapid manner on Monday--we'll be going to Bill , from . He's been invited to appear before the committee on Monday.
That will be immediately after the study of Bill C-474. Normally we allow the member introducing the bill to make a 10-minute presentation, followed by a question period of about 30 minutes.
That is the approach we would propose to take on Monday. Of course, by then you'll have the regular chairman. Mr. Mills will be back from Russia and be in the chair, and I'm sure you'll all look forward to that.
This is a meeting pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) to consider the main estimates for the Department of the Environment, as well as for the Parks Canada Agency, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. In that regard, I am pleased to welcome, from the Department of the Environment, Ian Shugart, the associate deputy minister.
Perhaps, Mr. Shugart, you would be prepared to introduce the people who are here with you.
Exactly, Chair. I'll begin.
I'm very grateful to be here with the committee and indeed on this occasion with my colleagues in the portfolio. I think it's the first time we have done that, certainly any time recently.
With me also from the Department of the Environment is Cécile Cléroux, who is the assistant deputy minister of our largest branch, the environmental stewardship branch, and Basia Ruta, our chief financial officer in the department.
It is a pleasure to be here, as acting deputy minister, to respond to questions on the department's main estimates.
We also have other colleagues with us, should the committee members want to put questions of a more detailed nature to us. We're here to provide whatever information we can; and, as always, we'd be happy to follow up if we don't have the immediate information at hand.
I'd like to point out with reference to the main estimates, Chair, that Environment Canada's budget has undergone a few changes in comparison with the previous year. It might be helpful to give you a brief explanation of these.
First, to ensure that our results structure aligns with government priorities, our program activity architecture has changed slightly from the previous year. If you were to reference page 7 of the report on plans and priorities, you will note that the initiative to revitalize the Toronto waterfront, along with the Harbourfront Corporation, has been added to the list of 2008-2009 program activities. For that fiscal year, our main estimates total $957.5 million, which is approximately $115.5 million more than the 2007-2008 main estimates. Of this increase in funding to the department, the majority of the variance is targeted towards grants and contributions, largely relating to the Toronto waterfront revitalization initiative and the Harbourfront Centre—$92 million in this case.
Those two items aside, the department's 2008-2009 main estimates are largely comparable to those of the previous year.
The department also receives re-spendable revenues—what we refer to as “vote-netted revenue”—which amount to $68 million in the current year. That amount is mostly attributable to activities such as licences, permits, and the meteorological services we provide to National Defence and NavCan. VNR is netted out in the main estimates.
I'd also note that through the 2008-2009 supplementary estimates (A), tabled on May 13, Environment Canada is seeking $74.6 million in new funding for initiatives such as the implementation of the national vehicle scrappage program and the implementation of fresh water initiatives. These were referenced in the budget, of course.
Overall, the funding provided to the department this year will allow us to continue our work on the environmental agenda and meet the government's key priorities in this area. This includes working to conserve our nation's biodiversity, to predict weather as effectively as possible in order to reduce the risks that Canadians may need to control, and to protect citizens and the environment from the effects of pollution and waste in areas such as water and chemical management.
Undoubtedly, climate change is the greatest priority of our department. We are working to implement the “Turning the Corner” action plan, introduced last year for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air emissions. This framework was recently expanded in March 2008 to include strong new sector-specific reductions aimed at the oil sands and electricity sectors.
Internationally, as the committee knows, we're actively participating in negotiations on a post-2012 international agreement on climate change.
We're also working to protect and preserve the diversity of our environment, for example, through the natural areas conservation program, a partnership created with the Nature Conservancy of Canada last year. A number of properties have been purchased under that program, such as a significant one in the Qu’Appelle Valley region of Saskatchewan this year.
We're making investments to protect our oceans and water, working to fulfill the government's commitments in this area through the action plan on clean water to clean up our rivers, lakes, and oceans—in this case, the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Winnipeg.
Significant investments are also being made in improving our enforcement capabilities so that we can give our environment the protection it deserves. For example, in the March 2008 budget $21 million over two years was allocated to support the enforcement of Canada' s tough environmental laws by increasing the effectiveness of environmental enforcement officers with better forensics laboratory support, data collection, analysis and management systems. This follows on the $22 million identified in Budget 2007 to support a 50 % increase in the number of environmental enforcement officers hired.
Lastly, Budget 2008 provided an increase in funding for the ongoing work under the chemicals management plan, which, as the committee knows, is Canada's plan to take immediate action to regulate substances harmful to human health and the environment.
Chair, these are the main highlights and some examples of the work that we've been doing and the areas where work is being done to meet our environmental objectives. As the committee knows, we remain committed in the department to advancing the environmental agenda. To do this, we want to ensure that the appropriate conditions are in place so that we can respond to the environmental challenges in front of us with the right mix of laws, regulations, and market incentives.
Thank you, Chair, for giving me this time to make these comments to introduce the session. As you know, we'd be happy to answer questions.
With your approval, I'll turn to my colleague, Mr. Latourelle.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members. It's a real pleasure to be here today. I'm very pleased to work with the committee, including answering any questions that you may have following my presentation.
First, I'd like to share with you how proud I am to be part of the Parks Canada Agency. At Parks Canada, people genuinely care about the issues we're all called upon to work on. We care because we know that what we do has real and meaningful impact on the lives of Canadians.
In the fall of 1883 three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers discovered a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slope of Alberta's Rocky Mountains. This led to the creation of Banff National Park, Canada's first national park, in 1885.
Parks Canada has grown a lot since then. There are now 42 national parks, covering more than 275,000 square kilometres; three national marine conservation areas; as well as 925 national historic sites, of which 158 are operated and owned by Parks Canada.
Each of Canada's protected heritage areas is part of Canada's collective soul and part of our nation's promise to its future. It's not by accident that in Canada, natural and cultural treasures continue to thrive in the 21st century. They survive because Canadians have chosen to safeguard places of stillness, natural wonder, and meaning.
Through the years, we have increased our knowledge and understanding of ecosystems and improved our legislation.
We are developing our offer to visitors and stand as the largest provider of natural and cultural tourism products Canada-wide with more than 20 million domestic and international visits every year.
I am extremely proud that our efforts in providing services to visitors were recently recognized by two awards of excellence: The Tourism Business of the Year Award from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, and a prestigious award from World Travel Market Global Award to Jasper National Park. These awards illustrate once again the richness and quality of Parks Canada's team.
However, our national parks and national historic sites face a challenging future. In this time of growing urbanization and high dependence on technology, fewer and fewer Canadians are connected to nature. As our success depends on the involvement of all Canadians, we are taking action to engage more and more stakeholders and partners from an increasingly diversified Canadian society. We are also making every effort to provide Canadians with meaningful experiences and quality visitor services in ways that protect resources for present and future generations.
Parks Canada is also taking action to conserve and expand Canada's system of national parks and national marine conservation areas and our network of places, persons and events of national historic significance.
Because of the actions Parks Canada is taking today, years from now Canadians and foreign visitors will still be able to learn about Canada's journey through history and enjoy landscapes and places unique to Canada such as theTorngat Mountains, the historic district of Old Quebec, Lake Superior, and the Nahanni region. And years from now, plains bison will still thunder across the vast wind-swept prairie that once was their native homeland.
In terms of priorities of the agency for the upcoming few years, maintaining and improving the cultural integrity of our national parks and the commemorative integrity of our national historic sites remains a priority. Maintaining and improving the quality of the visitor experience and renewing our visitor service to Canadians is also a priority. Connecting Canadians, especially urban Canadians, to our national parks and national historic sites is a priority, and so is continuing on our mission to expand our system of national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas.
In closing, I am greatly encouraged by all Parks Canada has been able to recently accomplish, and I'm confident in our ability to meet the heritage challenges that confront us and to realize the full potential of our magnificent heritage resources.
Mr. Chair, I thank you for your attention, and I shall be happy to answer any questions committee members may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's my turn to thank you for affording me the opportunity to come and talk about the activities of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
This is a very interesting time for the Agency. As you have no doubt already noted, our budget has sharply increased. In my preliminary remarks, I plan to focus on three points. First, I want to provide some brief background on the federal environmental assessment process. Second, I will describe how new funding proposed for 2008-2009 is leading to a transformation of our Agency. Finally, I would like to look ahead to the 2010 review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
First, very briefly, here is some context on environmental assessment. In the simplest terms, EA is a process to predict and evaluate possible environmental effects and then to propose measures to mitigate those adverse effects. Making changes to the design of a project before construction starts is a cost-effective way to protect the environment and the health of Canadians.
Our legislation, CEAA, applies to proposed projects where a federal authority—a department, agency, or crown corporation—has a decision to make as the proponent of the project, as a source of funding for the project, as the land manager, or as the regulator for the project. It is a self-assessment process, and this means the federal body that has the decision-making authority in relation to the project is also responsible for ensuring that the EA is conducted.
The types of projects that are assessed under our system, some 7,000 to 8,000 per year, range from relatively benign projects such as a hiking trail in a national park to much more complex and controversial projects, like a nuclear reactor, for example.
Projects will undergo a screening, a comprehensive study, or a panel review, depending on the potential for significant effects and public concern.
Within this self assessment process, our Agency provides advice and training. We coordinate the assessment of larger projects and support independent review panels appointed by the Minister of the Environment. We also work closely with provinces so that a single EA meets the legal requirements of both jurisdictions.
Turning now to our proposed spending, the 2008-09 main estimates propose a net increase of $17.9 million, for a total spending of $34.5 million, which is slightly more than double our previous budget. This significant increase is due to the following factors.
First, under the government's initiative to improve the performance of the regulatory system for major resource projects, the agency will now lead the EAs of most of these projects on behalf of the responsible departments.
Second, a surge of investment in the resource sector means that additional scientific and technical capacity is required, including support for more review panels. Adding capacity and shifting primary responsibility for delivery of the process from multiple departments to the agency is intended to improve the timeliness and the predictability and to ensure high-quality information for decision-makers.
Finally, where the agency manages an EA, it will also assume the very challenging role of coordinating consultations with aboriginal groups and communities about potential impacts of proposed projects on their rights and interests.
Now how will the transformation that I referred to earlier occur? In practical terms, this new funding means we will be able to recruit and retain additional scientific and technical staff, primarily in our six regional offices across the country. That means an increase in our staff of between 90 and 100 new employees. That's significant growth.
In addition, with this capacity, our Agency will play a more prominent leadership role in managing specific EAs, something that environmental and industry stakeholders have been recommending for years.
It should also be noted that, as part of our transformation, there is an increased emphasis on tracking, measuring and reporting performance.
Finally, I'll say just a few words about statutory review. The act is scheduled for review in 2010 by a parliamentary committee, a requirement coming out of amendments that followed the previous five-year review in 2003. Everything we learned from our continuing efforts to improve the timeliness, predictability, and quality of the EA process will serve to inform this review.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to be with you here today to talk about the round table.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is an independent policy advisory agency whose purpose is to play the role of catalyst in identifying, explaining, and promoting, in all sectors of Canadian society and in all regions of Canada, principles and practices of sustainable development. The round table was created in 1988, 20 years ago, and had its status formalized in a 1993 act of Parliament that sets out its purpose and mandate. We report to Parliament through the Minister of the Environment.
The Round Table examines the environmental and economic implications of priority issues and offers independent policy advice, based on its own research, multi-stakeholder consultations, and the deliberations of Round Table members themselves, on how to address these issues.
The 2008-2009 main estimates for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy are $5.154 million. The round table will expend its full appropriation on a single program activity, which is an advisory program on environment and economy issues.
Over the course of this fiscal year we will be working on a range of policy priorities, including climate change adaptation relating to northern infrastructure, carbon-pricing instrument design, best international practices in greenhouse gas emission forecasting, the economics of climate change, water, and compliance with our legislative responsibilities under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.
I'd be pleased to answer any questions committee members might have about the round table and its main estimates.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us this afternoon.
Mr. Chair, if I could, for 30 seconds, I just want to make a comment and an observation.
I'm very disappointed, as is the official opposition, that the minister is not here for these estimates. He was invited no later than April 28, 2008. He informed this committee only last week that he would be unable to attend the meeting. In the meantime, he told this committee that the only date he would be available was the last date before the deadline to report these estimates back to the House. He provided no alternative date to members of Parliament or to the committee.
I understand that from time to time things come up that cause rescheduling, but it seems passing strange, despite our profound desire to have a thorough examination of the department's budget for 2008-2009 and with the minister present to be accountable for, after all, $1.1 billion worth of decisions. I was prepared to give him over a month to make himself available. He's been unable to do so, and I think it's very disappointing for the Canadian people that this minister has not made the effort to accommodate this committee and is now absent from these meetings.
Let me go on to my line of questioning, if I might, Mr. Chair. We're here to do our jobs, so let's begin.
To start off, Mr. Shugart, on page 9 of Environment Canada's 2008-2009 report on plans and priorities, I see an additional $8.8 million was spent by Minister Baird on advertising last year under the supplementary estimates. Can you please, in fairly short order, tell this committee what this money was spent on? What is the advertising budget going to be for 2008-2009, and does this advertising coincide with the launching of the “Turning the Corner” plan?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On page 10 of Part 3 of the main estimates 2008-2009, we see “Departmental Planned Spending and Full-Time Equivalents”. Among other things, under the heading “Program Activity Descriptions”, we see “Risks to Canadians, their health and their environment posed by toxic and other harmful substances are reduced.” I see there is a drop from the estimates for 2007-2008, that is to say that the amount fell from $130 million to $103.8 million. It's declining. Planned expenditures for 2009-2010 are $102 million, and that amount remains the same for 2010-2011.
Since the government has submitted a toxic substances management plan, I'd like to know what explains this reduction provided for under the main estimates.
As you know, parliamentarians have amended the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. A management plan has been tabled. I find it hard to understand this quite significant reduction in expenditures, when the acts have been amended and the government has submitted a plan to us.
What is the explanation for this reduction? Does it mean that programs are being cut? What's going on?
I thought we were operating in an entirely transparent manner and that, apart from the question period, this was an opportunity to question the officials. However, I realize that the parliamentary secretary doesn't view the committee's role in that way, and that's very disappointing. In any case, even if I insisted, I wouldn't get an answer.
Mr. Sylvester, you say in Part 3 of your brief:
||The Agency is an ardent defender of the use of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as an instrument for promoting integrated decision-making.
You aren't unaware that parliamentarians have just, that is at three o'clock, voted on Bill . My question is simple: does your Agency have at its disposal a strategic environmental assessment of Bill C-33? It was two weeks ago, if I'm not mistaken, that a deputy minister appeared here and made a commitment to send us the strategic environmental assessment of the bill. However, we haven't received it. I made the same request in another parliamentary committee, the Human Resources Committee, and we haven't yet received it. So this is a third attempt today.
Let me tell you that, after three requests, Mr. Chairman, I'm taking other steps to obtain a document. So I'm asking Mr. Sylvester whether he has, at his Agency, a strategic environmental assessment of Bill C-33, which parliamentarians voted on a few minutes ago.
Incidentally, there's nothing personal in this. I'm angry, but that often happens to me.
That's correct, Mr. Chair, should there be any time left over. I don't have too many questions, but I appreciate that.
Of course we are here today for a very important duty of this committee, and that's to review the estimates for 2008-2009. Just for the record, before I launch in, Mr. McGuinty raised a number of issues in his round of questioning, and I just wanted to be clear that Ontario's share of the eco-trust fund is $586.2 million to support projects that result in real reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollutants. I think Mr. Shugart could confirm this.
I have a quote from Premier Dalton McGuinty: “It will also support Ontario's plans to phase out its remaining coal-fired generating stations.” We certainly expect we'll have an understanding of what their greenhouse gas reductions will be as they begin to draw that down. I think it will be significant to the province of Ontario.
I want to thank the witnesses for being here. I think we all would have appreciated having the minister here, but I think we can appreciate that the minister has a very busy schedule.
Looking at the estimates and the number of topics covered in your presentations, everything from conservation to protecting biodiversity, chemicals management, climate change, clean water, these are very important things for the minister to be tackling. Now we can probably add to that helping the Premier of Ontario protect his economy from a massive carbon tax plan from the opposition.
Mr. Shugart, you mentioned very briefly the natural areas conservation program, which is a very significant program with respect to habitat preservation. You mentioned the purchase of some lands in Saskatchewan. Of course the first announcement to come out of that was on Pelee Island, and that's protecting 5% of the island's rare alvar habitat. It's a very good announcement.
My questions will be directed to the government's action plan on clean water, $663.3 million to protect what I think this committee would arguably agree is the most precious natural resource in Canada. We've made numerous investments in the province of Ontario: Lake Simcoe; my area, the Detroit River; the St. Clair River; and Randall Reef in Hamilton Harbour. Can you inform the committee of the progress of some of these funding announcements and what their effects will be for the surrounding communities?
Mr. Chair, I'll attempt to address that question.
Of the resources just quoted, approximately $96 million will come to Environment Canada over the next five years to address three elements of the action plan. Those would be Lake Simcoe, as mentioned, the Great Lakes, and Lake Winnipeg. The Great Lakes program is approximately $48 million over five years, and it's intended to accelerate sediment cleanups in the areas of concern. I believe progress has been made on five of those accelerations to date.
In Hamilton Harbour, a technical plan has now been agreed to and the environmental assessment is beginning, and some of the other scientific studies to allocate sources are also taking place.
Of the 17 areas of concern that implicate Canadians, to date two have been delisted and are no longer areas of concern. All the actions in one of them have taken place, and we're waiting for the use impairments to disappear so it can be delisted. Of the 17 remaining, we intend to have completed actions in 15 by the year 2012.
A call was made for proposals with respect to Lake Simcoe, and 63 were received. They were reviewed by a technical committee, who completed their work, I believe, approximately two weeks ago and are making recommendations to the minister on projects that will be funded this year.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, witnesses
I want to return to the “Turning the Corner” plan and the money that was set aside for the eco-trust, which is $1.5 billion.
On page 7 of the short form of the plan there is a fairly ambitious chart that shows how we're going to get to a 20% reduction by 2020. On page 6 it says that the eco-trust investments will yield, at a minimum, 35 megatonnes of reduction. Madame Cléroux, in answering the question on cost-benefit analysis, I assume included the 35 megatonnes expected from the eco-trust.
Here's the problem I have with the eco-trust. If it's the provinces exclusively that make the decisions and there is no conditionality imposed by the federal government, no accountability for the way the money is spent, no compliance mechanism or even corrective action that can be taken if it turns out this isn't working, how can anyone make a firm cost-benefit analysis about how the plan's going to work, or indeed a firm prediction that we will reduce greenhouse gases in Canada by 20% by 2020, when this large component--35 megatonnes at a minimum--is not subject to any foreseeable rules, conditions, accountability, or verifiability?
I would ask the committee to go to page 16 of the English version of the Report on Plans and Priorities. It's on page 18 in French.
Here we have a list of our programs and policy priorities we're looking at. You'll see at the top of page 18, in French, Le prix du carbone: conception et mise en oeuvre d'un instrument.
The round table is embarking on a project that will take most of this year to complete, whereby we are furthering our work from our report, Getting to 2050 , released in early January, which said that market-based policies were probably the best way to get deep greenhouse gas emission reductions. So as part of that, we want to look at the best forms of policy instrument design, particularly a carbon tax versus a cap and trade. To get to that, we will have some work done inside by staff, but we will also, of course, use modelling experts in Canada, as well as other academic and policy experts across the country and elsewhere.
I'd be pleased to do that, Chair.
The principle, I think, of the vehicle scrappage program is clear: it is primarily to take older, polluting vehicles off the road, taking advantage of the greater fuel efficiency and cleaner emission standards that are applied to newer models. We do that in collaboration with local non-profit organizations who have this in their mission.
There is an incentive provided to consumers, administered by these organizations, and the government provides financial support to the organizations. The form of that incentive can vary, from a cash rebate in the order of $300, I think, for a vehicle. What is particularly advantageous is not necessarily the trade-in for another vehicle, but the public transit subsidy, or the use of bicycles, and those kinds of thing.
So it's a partnership program with that objective, and it includes a rebate.
So today we've heard expressions of concern from members of the federal Liberal Party that money in the $1.5-billion eco-trust has been given. We've heard from Mr. Shugart that provinces were taken at their word. Mr. Watson has reminded us that $586 million went to Ontario, taking them at their word that they will shut down those dirty coal-fired generating plants.
Canadians are counting on the provinces to live up to the agreement of those dollars, because Canada has a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by an absolute of 20% by 2020. We're counting on Ontario to be honourable with those dollars that have been entrusted to them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The other point raised by Mr. Scarpaleggia was on the Liberal carbon tax. He was trying to justify a $62-billion tax—a tax on gasoline, a tax on Canadians to heat their homes, a tax to dry their clothes, a tax on food, a tax on people to drive their cars.
There are two dimensions to this, Mr. Chairman.
The first dimension was an investment, which is still rolling out and being implemented in Budget 2007, to increase the capacity by about 50%, if my memory serves, through environmental enforcement officers on both the environment protection side and on the wildlife side. It was intended to hire and pay for and equip new environmental enforcement officers. They were to be deployed right across the country, basically expanding the geographic reach and in some cases the depth of our capacity to investigate and enforce.
In Budget 2008 there was a second round of investment in this area, which was to provide greater capacity in the environmental enforcement branch in areas such as forensic capability, data development, and tracking so that our enforcement program would know where the greatest risks are, to develop the evidence base, to be able to bring the detailed forensic analysis to court to achieve a successful prosecution—for example, in the illegal trafficking of endangered species across borders—or to be able to attribute a particular oil spill in a marine environment to the particular oil on a particular vessel, for example.
So in terms of both the human resource capacity and the science and technical capacity to back up their work, we are rolling out those investments and will be over the next couple of years.
Thank you, Mr. Warawa. As you indicated to me, your time is at an end; I concur.
Now I'll take my turn to ask a couple of questions.
First of all, I come from a part of the country where, as in most parts of the country, people are concerned about clean air. We sometimes refer to Nova Scotia, or we think of it in some respects, as a tailpipe of North America, because the wind, unfortunately, brings lots of bad air from other parts of North America. Particularly we think of the Ohio River Valley and other areas with lots of industry. We're the recipients of what they do to the air and what other parts of the continent do.
Clean air is important to us, and I'm alarmed to note that the clean air regulatory agenda has had its funding reduced by $2.2 million. Could you tell me what aspects of the agenda have lost funding and are decreasing?