Let me begin today by saying that as Minister of the Environment, I'm very proud of the high priority Canadians are placing on the environment. Canadians understand the value of our environment and they're getting involved more and more in the protection of our environment, and that's great news for everyone.
There is a growing understanding today that the links between our environment and our economy are absolutely inseparable. How we manage and care for our environment directly impacts the legacy we leave for the next generation. Our government understands this, and we are not only listening attentively to Canadians, we're taking real action to get real results for Canadians and for our environment.
In Budgets 2006 and 2007, our government announced investments of more than $9 billion in funding for priorities and initiatives related to environmental initiatives that will be implemented over a span of several years. Of this funding, close to $1 billion will flow to Environment Canada in the next five years to deliver on environmental initiatives.
This government has taken action on environmental priorities, actions that show beyond words and rhetoric that we are serious about protecting and improving our environment. Our government not only gets it, but we're showing the world that Canada is serious about reducing our emissions.
After 13 years of rising emissions, our government has put forward a plan, our “Turning the Corner” plan, which demonstrates real action, a commitment that goes beyond signing on the dotted line. For the first time in Canada's history, we've enlisted industry to take action and to implement mandatory, not voluntary, targets to reduce both greenhouse gases and air pollution. We are leading our country down a new path, and climate change has not been the only priority we're delivering on. We're also focusing on priorities like clean water, environmental protection, and something that's very important to me, conservation. We've been working to make sure that our natural legacy and ecosystems are conserved and that our wildlife and migratory birds are protected. Our government committed $22 million in Budget 2007 to hire more environmental enforcement officers. Our commitment will ensure improved accountability in environmental enforcement: polluters will pay.
We are also working to ensure the safety of Canadians through our weather services and our storm warning systems. Protecting Canada's natural heritage has also been a priority, and we have targeted part of the budget funding toward supporting a massive natural areas conservation program, expanding protected areas in the Northwest Territories, and implementing the Species at Risk Act.
Let me give you a few examples of some of the important work we're doing at Environment Canada to protect wildlife. Environment Canada is doing research on the ecology of the polar bear as well as negotiating a conservation agreement among Canada, Nunavut, and Greenland.
As you may know, we expect the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to report on the status of the polar bear population. We've engaged 18 of the top scientists from academia, government, and non-government groups across Canada to determine the critical habitat of the caribou of the boreal forest. This will not only help the caribou population but contribute to the biodiversity of the boreal forest in our great country.
We've completed a recovery strategy for two important seabirds, the pink-footed shearwater and the short-tailed albatross. And as my colleague, the member for Langley, recently announced, we will be taking action to protect the Scott Islands in British Columbia, which will further help these species.
We're also doing important research on another migratory seabird, the marbled merlet, a species that resides in the Great Bear rainforest, which this government contributed $30 million to help protect. We're hopeful that this action will result in a downgrading of its status in the Species at Risk Act.
These are just a few examples of the excellent work done by the men and women of Environment Canada who are dedicated to protecting some of the most vulnerable species. Canada is fortunate to be served by such high-quality public servants who are truly dedicated to a noble cause.
Mr. Chair, our government promised to focus its budget on priority setting, and as you can see, we are remaining true to our word. Yet even with our numerous investments and environmental priorities, Environment Canada has been facing challenges to deliver ongoing programs and services to Canadians, notwithstanding the substantial investment being made by this government for the environment.
This does not mean that the department has grown in each and every area. When we look at the current departmental budget and supplementary estimates, we must recognize that we are only partway through the fiscal year. What we are looking at right now is not the total picture. The department's budget may still change as a result of funding from supplementary estimates later this fiscal year.
Right now Environment Canada's budget for this fiscal year stands at $842 million. The supplementary estimates currently before the House of Commons include another $290 million, which, if passed, will increase the department's budget to over $1 billion.
It must be noted, however, that what we see in the present supplementary estimates is in large part funding that was associated with the new programs being transferred to Environment Canada from another department.
The largest increase relates to the transfer of the Toronto waterfront revitalization initiative to Environment Canada, a budget item that's previously been shown in Treasury Board Secretariat's estimates. The fact is it will include funding from supplementary estimates (A) without the funding for the newly transferred functions. The overall budget for the department will increase this year by approximately $55 million.
Mr. Chair, what needs to be understood is that the new funding coming to the department is specifically targeted towards delivering on the government's environmental priorities. This funding does not add to the department's bottom line. Therefore, core funding remains constrained.
Even as the department is receiving new money, it is not allocated to legacy and existing programs and services in all cases. There are a number of reasons for the financial pressures on core funding at Environment Canada.
First of all, the 2005 expenditure review undertaken by the previous government resulted in a cut of about $22 million, which is no longer available to the Department of the Environment year over year. The fact is that was made and approved by one of my predecessors in that year.
In fact, Environment Canada is feeling the effects of another spending restraint measure dating back to 2003, again under the previous government. This is a reality that we have inherited and we are doing our best to deal with.
In addition, because of the cuts made by the previous government, Environment Canada's budget has been limited by the amount of funding available for the department to carry forward into the next fiscal year. In previous years this amount totalled $25 million to $35 million; however, it went down to as little as $13 million.
The budgetary situation has further been compounded by new requirements, which are being addressed internally. The department has had to enhance its informatics operations required to provide the capacity and security in support of our science-based programs. The department moved forward towards audited financial statements, requiring additional investments to meet this requirement.
The department also underwent a significant reorganization less than two years ago. This reorganization aimed to move the department towards a new results-based structure to ensure that the highest priorities are being addressed. This came with financial impacts.
The transformation implemented in April 2006 has had an impact on the department.
Collectively, all of this has added to a tight but manageable financial situation. Prudent management dictates that a constant review of current operations is required, making sure that limited resources are managed efficiently and that funds for lower priorities are moved into higher ones.
Given that my timeline is coming to an end, I'll move to the conclusion.
Mr. Chair, our government cares deeply about the state of the environment and this country's ability to monitor, manage, and protect our precious natural treasures. We are doing what it takes to ensure priority areas are addressed and cared for as they should be, and despite the legacy we have inherited, with careful planning, our government has continued to deliver on the most comprehensive environmental agenda that Canadians have ever seen. Most importantly, despite everything, the department is working tirelessly and it shows.
I believe we've made a tremendous amount of progress in a very short period of time. In the last two years our government has introduced a number of important initiatives, such as the launch of a national pilot of the air quality health index, the introduction of our “Turning the Corner” action plan, and the introduction of Canada's trust fund for clean air and climate change.
Canada has also become a member of the international Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking to address the illegal trade of plants and animals. We have invested in a national campaign to buy and to preserve ecologically significant land across southern Canada, working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Our government is bolstering the protection of our water and land to toughen environmental enforcement that will make polluters accountable, hiring another 106 environmental enforcement officers.
In short, the story is simple. Department officials have had to work extra hard to ensure that every financial decision is carefully considered for the greatest benefit of our environment.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you.
I did want to address one issue that came up at the last committee hearing. Mr. Chair, you weren't here, so I will read a quote.
The member for Ottawa South suggested that I had misquoted the former Vice-President of the United States, and I checked the record, and not only did I not make any characterization of the quote, but I delivered the quote exactly as he said it. And, Mr. Speaker, I know you're a sports fan. Sometimes you say when there's a doubt, you go to the videotape. So we can go to the videotape and it will show that according to Hansard, it will match up with the quote Mr. Gore gave.
I want to answer that question. That file is very important for me as Minister of the Environment.
However, I'm going to answer in English because I want to be very precise.
There have been three reviews of spending. Two were conducted by the previous government and one was conducted by our government. As a matter of practice, I think it's generally a good idea to constantly look at whether your spending is matching the priorities.
In what I'll call the third review conducted by our government, reductions were made in the department's budget, and that was not to the Canadian Wildlife Service.
There were two previous reduction exercises that reduced funding for Environment Canada. One was led by John McCallum and another by another member of cabinet. Those reductions were never made. They were just cash managed for a period of years--carrying money forward, doing some prudent financial management.
As a result, when reductions to the Canadian Wildlife Service were being eyed, I was not comfortable with them, so I reviewed the issue and ordered that no reductions be made.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today.
I would like to pick up on questions asked by my Bloc colleague and push them a little further.
In your opening remarks--I was disappointed we didn't get copies of those, by the way, because normally we have those to review, but we didn't get them--you did make reference to many lofty goals your government has set for the environment, things you want to achieve, and yet you have a little over $13 million that wasn't spent in 2006-07 and you want to carry that over into 2007-08.
What I'm having trouble understanding is that with all the pressures you talked about--you told us your budget is limited--and, as we understand it, there's freezing of certain expenditures happening within the ministry, some cuts and reallocations.... With those taking place, and with your goal for the environment being the protection of Canada's environment, there was $13 million that didn't get spent in that fiscal year. I'm concerned that perhaps you're more concerned about pleasing the finance minister and the Prime Minister, in terms of having money left over, than you are about pushing to fight for the environment.
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
We can only spend money that Parliament provides to us. As you know, we get money in dribs and drabs through the year. We have the main estimates, and then we have supplementary estimates. So just about every single organization will carry forward an amount. It's a timing difference. Managing to one percent, as our deputy said, is basically what we have to do, or we would not be complying with authorities. We do get some money that comes in at the end of the year.
In terms of your question about what we've done with the $13 million, well, of course we've allocated that to other priorities, including the Canadian Wildlife Service. We have supplementary estimates before the House. If they are approved, then we'll be able to use that money. Otherwise, we are in a position of only being able to budget and spend the amount of money that Parliament authorizes for us. Indeed, we've done that.
If I could, I'll just provide a bit of a skeleton in terms of our main estimates and our supplementary estimates. Included in our main estimates is also about $74.5 million that's dedicated for new work. So we have to spend it on clean air initiatives, on toxics, and on the clean air agenda. It's also decreased by a certain amount of temporary funding we had for species at risk, but our supplementary estimates are fixing that. There's a bit of a timing difference. Also, as our minister said, there's an expenditure reduction of somewhere in the order of $10 million.
So that brings us to a net increase of about $38 million. Now our supplementary estimates, as we said, are close to about $290 million, but there's a big item in there for Harbourfront Centre, which we can't use.
So it's a bit more than last year, but we are doing everything we can to reallocate. One other area that we did focus on department-wide was one of our larger expenditures, which is travel and correspondence, and not just in one program. We believed we could create efficiencies, and we've done that as well.
I'm not here to discuss families, Mr. Baird. I just want to point out the importance of putting quotations in context, in their time.
I do have a quick question for you.
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
Hon. John Godfrey: My quick question is--
An hon. member: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: Order.
Hon. John Godfrey: Look, by training, I'm a historian and a journalist, and all I ask is that quotations be given in their context.
The question I really want to ask you is, showing the concern you have in recent times for issues concerning climate change, why have you actually cut funding to or ceased funding with new money two organizations, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences—which, at a time when we need to know more about these things, I would have thought deserved more funding—and the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network, which lost its funding in June 2006 and then was closed for good on June 30, 2007?
As we're trying to understand climate impacts and climate science, why have you cut funding to science?
I do appreciate your patience, as you've had many questions from us.
We've heard, clearly, some of the difficulties that previous Liberal cuts have caused, but we've also clearly heard the commitments from the minister, and the staff of the department have clearly shared that the commitment from the government, from the minister, is these absolute reductions.
He's also shared, Chair, very clearly that this government is going to be going to Bali--we talked about that last Thursday--and he shared with some of the members of the committee, both last Thursday and today, those commitments to ask all major emitters to be part of the solution. As this committee has heard numerous times, my desire is that we start focusing on solutions and stop the rhetoric. Let's look at solutions like things you'd like to see, Chair, and some good healthy discussions on gasification of garbage, carbon sequestration, clean coal technologies, and on and on.
I think it would be very appropriate that I move a motion, Chair, that we as a committee support the call of the government to have all the major emitters participating in targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We've heard clearly over the months that without all the major emitters participating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the emissions will continue to rise globally. That's our goal as a government, and I hope it's the goal of every member here. So this is my motion, that we do call on all major emitters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The second paragraph on page 338 of Marleau and Montpetit says:
||Usually, quorum is quickly restored so that the House may proceed with the business before it. Should the House be required to adjourn for lack of quorum, any Order of the Day under consideration at the time, with the exception of an item of Private Members' Business not selected to come to a vote, retains its precedence on the Order Paper for the next sitting.
Now, this is referring to business in the House, but very clearly what happened, Mr. Chair, is that a motion had been tabled and was in the middle of debate when--and this is televised, so people will hear very clearly--every member on that other side stood up and walked out of this meeting. They started off with counting, and then off they went.
The chair of the meeting, Mr. Regan, then said we did not have quorum, when in fact, Mr. Chair, we did have quorum. If you look at the rules, to have quorum you need to have a member of the opposition; we did have a member of the opposition and five members of the government, so when the members stood up and marched out, we had a reduced quorum. For the meeting to have been called was not appropriate. Then we go back to our procedure; it says that the business that was being discussed now takes precedence.
My question is through you to the clerk. Using Marleau and Montpetit, would it not indicate that the item that should be taking precedence is the motion that the members of the opposition tried to keep from being debated by getting up and walking out of this meeting?
The problem I definitely have is that when we go to the Speaker or to the clerks in the House, they will tell us that parliamentary committees are really responsible for their own decisions, that in fact there isn't an order paper or set of rules that apply to committees. I've heard this many, many times, that committees control their own destiny, so to speak. They elect a chair to make decisions, they have a steering committee, they have a committee, and those decisions are made.
So I guess I have real trouble with bringing back a motion that couldn't have been voted on, a motion that was made, in effect, when the committee had ended. In fact, we had a new motion brought forward. That new motion, I believe, was out of order simply because it didn't deal with the subject on the table, the estimates, which I think it had to deal with.
I think Mr. Bigras' motion is in the order papers, and that's what we are here to deal with. We have roughly five minutes left to deal with his motion.
Of course, we also need some agreement about Thursday's meeting in terms of arranging witnesses and carrying on further with . But we have to call those witnesses now. I believe three have been approached and are tentatively available for Bill C-377, but that needs to be confirmed with them.
Again, the committee, being responsible for its own destiny, needs to decide if we are going to hear Mr. Layton and the other two witnesses, Aldyen Donnelly and Matthew Bramley. Those three witnesses have been suggested. Of course, it's Mr. Layton's bill.
So we will carry on with that on Thursday. The clerk needs to know right now if we should confirm those speakers for Thursday. That's my first question.
My second is, after we go to the motion of Mr. Bigras and debate it, do members want to return after the vote to carry on with that debate? That's the next question, because this meeting is going to be called in about two or three minutes.
I'm introducing this motion today simply because the 13th Conference of the Parties began on climate change in Bali on December 3, yesterday. The purpose of that conference is to establish mandatory reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions. We know that the minister announced to us that he intended to leave Canada for Bali with his plan for fighting climate change in his suitcase, the purpose of which, he said, was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But what is the actual situation? The actual situation is that the government has made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions relative to 2006 by 20% in 2020, on the basis of emissions intensity.
First, that means that all those businesses that have previously made efforts will be penalized by the minister's plans because he has taken 2006 as a benchmark. A lot of those businesses are in Quebec. I'm thinking of the Quebec industrial sectors that have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 7% since 1990.
Then the government announced to us that these targets won't be absolute targets. Instead they will be intensity targets where greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be conditional on production. So reductions by unit of production are anticipated. In absolute terms, that means increases in greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
For the first time, the WWF has established figures for the greenhouse gas emissions represented under the introduction of the 's plan. It refers to greenhouse gas emissions increases of 179%. They could even rise to 219%.
We must not, we cannot allow the minister to leave for Bali in a few hours with this plan, which, contrary to what the minister will attempt to lead the international community to believe, will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He must make commitments to absolute reductions of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.
The reports of the scientific groups are eloquent and demonstrate that, to ensure that climate change does not have dangerous economic and environmental impact—the word “dangerous” is important—we must limit the increase in average temperatures to 2oC over the pre-industrial period.
That requires a considerable effort on our part, and that's what this motion talks about. It also asks Canada to join the umbrella of Europe, which has decided to exceed this 20% reduction commitment by inviting the industrial countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% relative to 1990.
Mr. Chair, we expect the minister to stand up in Bali and to propose real targets for mandatory absolute reductions. We also hope that he will send a clear message to the developing and emerging countries, recalling the importance of clean development mechanisms. That is a powerful instrument of the Kyoto Protocol which enables Quebec and Canadian businesses that have environmental technology to make a technology transfer to those emerging countries. Those countries would thus be able to contribute to the global greenhouse gas reduction effort, and businesses that have sustainable development technologies would be able to do business.
Unfortunately, the Canadian government has not yet paid its minimum fees of $1.5 million. This non-compliance with its financial commitments shows that the government does not believe in the instruments contained in the Kyoto Protocol, including the Clean Development Mechanism.
In addition, the minister must send a clear message in Bali that he believes in the emissions credit trading system. That is fundamentally important; it is another powerful tool enabling us to meet our international commitments. If Canada does not make mandatory commitments to absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions, what message will the Canadian government be sending to the business community? What will be the impact on the carbon market? Isn't there a risk that that market, which enables businesses that have previously made efforts to make profits, collapse, as Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated in Asia a few weeks ago.
In our opinion, the minister has no other choice: he must send a clear message; make a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in absolute terms; reiterate Canada's support, clearly stated in Kyoto and confirmed in Marrakesh, for the Clean Development Mechanism; and clearly tell the international community that he believes in an emissions trading market system. That, Mr. Chair, is how Canada can regain leadership on the international stage.
Just today, Germany has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in absolute terms by 2020, starting from 1990 levels. Canada is increasingly isolated. While we have a prime minister who believes that the Kyoto Protocol was a mistake, Australia only yesterday stated its intention to ratify it.
Canada can no longer remain isolated from the international community. That is the gist of the motion introduced today. I know that the government has previously used all kinds of dilatory manoeuvres to engage in systematic obstruction in the committees. Today I won't afford the government the opportunity to use dilatory manoeuvres and obstruction to ensure that we, on this side of the committee, lose face, when we want to see firm measures in terms of greenhouse gas reductions. That is why I am introducing a motion to adjourn the committee's proceedings.