Good afternoon, everyone. First of all I want to thank you for rescheduling my appearance before this committee. I know we had to reschedule it about a month ago, so thank you for doing that. I want to begin by providing you a brief statement and after I would be happy to answer questions.
The opportunity to serve Canadians through the portfolios of Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and CEAA is a great honour for me. Environment Canada serves Canadians 24 hours a day, every day, and each year the department issues about 1.5 million weather forecasts, conducts about 8,600 inspections, and prosecutes over 340 violations of environmental law.
As you are aware, Environment Canada is a science-based department. For this reason, since 2006, our government has invested over $4 billion in science and technology at Environment Canada alone. With this solid scientific foundation, Environment Canada is making substantial contributions to meeting the government's priority of a clean and healthy environment.
Two weeks ago and I launched the national conservation plan. It will help to conserve and restore Canada's land and waters, and connect Canadians to nature. The plan provides a more coordinated approach for conservation efforts across Canada and will encourage on-the-ground actions and partnerships leading to tangible results.
The plan will also expand opportunities for partnerships including municipalities, environmental interest groups, hunters and anglers, land owners, and community groups to take practical actions to safeguard the lands and waters around them. It also builds on the actions and efforts of countless Canadians who are working to conserve and protect our rich natural heritage.
Last week, building on the priorities announced with the national conservation plan, I was in Halifax to announce further funding through the eco-action community funding program. This program helps to advance these goals and promotes the kind of effective collaboration work that is so important to the national conservation plan. The funding program will provide community groups with financial support for projects that have measurable positive impacts on the environment.
As well, last week I also announced in Fredericton further investments to the science horizons youth internship program, which also supports the national conservation plan. It will help post-secondary students gain valuable work experience while helping to protect Canada's environment. The national conservation plan is one of the many initiatives we have undertaken to safeguard Canada's environment.
Since we formed government, we have created two national marine conservation areas, three marine protected areas, three national wildlife areas, and two national parks. We are also making important investments to help maintain the infrastructure of our national parks. In budget 2014 we are investing $391 million to maintain and repair the dams, bridges, and highways. In the main estimates this year, we are also allocating $4 million for dams and locks along the Trent-Severn Waterway, and $1 million for the historic canals.
In addition to these accomplishments, we are creating more parks. A few weeks ago the Senate tabled a new bill to establish the national park reserve in the Northwest Territories. This will result in more than 85% of the entire watershed being protected from development. The creation of this park has been years in the making, involving consultations with the communities, aboriginal groups, industry, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
We are also working to create Canada's first national urban park, the Rouge national urban park in the greater Toronto area. Establishing the Rouge national urban park will further build on our government's success in expanding Canada's system of protected areas. The first of its kind in Canada, this new park will be 16 times larger than the size of New York's Central Park and will be readily accessible to 20% of Canada's total population. In our main estimates this year, we're allocating $19.6 million to support the development of this park.
Environment Canada is also advancing its work to safeguard water resources, an area that I know is of interest to this committee.
In 2012 we signed a modernized Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We renewed and expanded the Lake Simcoe-southeastern Georgian Bay cleanup fund. We are allocating $7.6 million in our main estimates this year to help restore the ecological health of Lake Simcoe and southeastern Georgian Bay, and improve water quality for the residents and wildlife of the region. We're also continuing to implement the Canada-Quebec agreement on the St. Lawrence and helping to clean up Lake Winnipeg through the Lake Winnipeg Basin initiative.
To protect the air Canadians breathe, we work extensively with provincial and territorial governments, and industry, health, environmental, and non-governmental organizations to develop Canada's air quality management system. This provides a coherent Canada-wide approach to ensuring good air quality across Canada.
We're also working to reduce mercury, a toxic element in our environment that could cause serious health problems for Canadians. This past October, Canada signed the Minamata Convention, a new international treaty, to reduce major sources of global mercury emissions and releases to the environment.
We recognize the serious problems of climate change and are addressing them through our sector-by-sector approach, which advances both our environmental and economic objectives. We introduced the strict regulations that made Canada the first major coal user to ban construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation plants. We also put in place greenhouse gas regulations for coal-fired electricity that are expected to remove 6,600 kilograms of mercury from the atmosphere between 2015 and 2035.
We introduced regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for passenger vehicles and light trucks for model years 2011 to 2016. In 2012 we also proposed a second phase of regulations for model year 2017 vehicles and beyond. As a result of these proposed regulations, we can look forward to new cars and light trucks made in 2025 that emit 50% less greenhouse gas and consume up to 50% less fuel than the 2008 models. In addition we can expect to see reductions of up to 23% in greenhouse gas emissions from 2014 model heavy-duty vehicles and later model years, as a result of regulations we introduced last year.
Internationally, our government is continuing to work with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to achieve a single new international climate change agreement that includes meaningful commitments by all major emitters.
Canada is also a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. It's aim is to reduce climate pollutants that are potent global warmers and dangerous air pollutants. The coalition finances projects that will help to address climate change and improve the health of millions of citizens around the world. We are a founding member and a major financial contributor to an international coalition, taking action to reduce pollutants such as black carbon and methane.
That is not all. We fully delivered on our fast-start financing commitment of $1.2 billion to support a range of climate change projects in over 60 developing countries. This is the largest contribution the Government of Canada has ever made to international climate change financing.
Turning to CEAA, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, now in place, Canadians can expect predictable timely review, reduced duplication, stronger environmental protection, and enhanced consultation with aboriginal peoples.
The act establishes legal timelines for environmental assessments. Instead of taking months, proponents receive a decision about whether a federal project assessment is required within 45 days. The agency is also coordinating consultation with aboriginal groups in a manner that is respectful, responsive, and consistent with the honour of the crown.
Moving forward, the agency will continue to deliver high-quality environmental assessments of major projects built on effective relationships with aboriginal peoples, and play a lead role in shaping the future of federal environmental assessments.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my opening remarks for this afternoon's committee appearance. I look forward to responding to your questions.
Thank you for the question, Colin.
You're correct that this is the first urban national park in Canada. Parks Canada has engaged with many Canadians and stakeholders in the Ontario region, including the first nations, in the planning process for the Rouge national urban park.
The participants involved in the process have expressed a passionate commitment to this initiative and the establishment of the park. The input we have received from the various stakeholders throughout our consultation process on the management plan is being used for the development of the plan.
We have a number of partners, and Transport Canada and the Ontario government have also officially confirmed their respective intentions to transfer land to Parks Canada. The June 2013 announcement basically formalized the partnership between provincial commitments to the initiative of developing the park. The process continues. As well, municipal partners have been involved in the consultation and development of it.
Parks Canada now is working towards finalizing the land assembly agreements with Toronto, the regional conservation authorities, and municipal and regional landholders. We're expecting that to be completed very soon.
The size of the Rouge national urban park, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, is 16 times larger than Central Park. I think this is very exciting. There will be many Canadians who will be able to access a park within an urban region. It's the first of its kind, and the many partners involved in this initiative are very excited and look forward to making it formal through the introduction of the legislation when we've finished the consultations with people from Ontario.
On the clean air quality management system, since October 2012, following a four-year, comprehensive, multi-stakeholder process with the federal-provincial ministers of environment, it was agreed to start implementing a new air quality management system to further protect the health of Canadians—and the environment—from air pollution. The federal government is responsible for implementing two key elements of that system, which are the new ambient air quality standards and the base level for industrial emission requirements for major industrial sectors.
In May 2013 we established a more ambitious air quality standard for fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999, and currently we're working on the development of the air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. The completion date for that is expected next year.
We're also preparing for the publication of the first phase of the industrial emission requirements. Once that's published, for the first time ever, we will be nationally consistent on the emission performance standards for the industrial facilities across Canada.
We're also continuing to collaborate with provincial-territorial counterparts on the reduction of air pollution through the local regional air quality management initiative, and we expect the implementation of the air quality management system to provide us with information that will be used to help us develop initiatives across Canada to protect the health of Canadians, as well as the environment. We are making progress in those areas.
Thank you, Minister, for your attendance with us here today.
As you know, my riding is Kitchener Centre, which is in the middle of southern Ontario, southwest Ontario. It's a region rich in ecosystems, both natural, urban, and agricultural. It literally supports millions of people. So I have great interest in the Great Lakes water quality, which supports all of those activities and people.
The committee, at my request, is just wrapping up a study on Great Lakes water quality. We have learned that much of the heavy lifting has been done, but there is work yet to do. A multilateral approach is the best approach. I have the idea that our government's Great Lakes action plan, in fact, adopts that approach.
I wondered if you could give us some details about the Great Lakes action plan.
Before I begin I also want to thank the committee for the work that you've done related to this initiative. I know that many hours were spent dealing with the issue of water quality.
On the Great Lakes action plan, as you're well aware, the sheer size of the Great Lakes and the watershed that feeds into them means that we have an area that requires all levels of government—municipal, federal, provincial—as well as society to do their part. For their part our government continues to work with local and provincial partners to protect and restore the water resources for the benefit of all Canadians.
This is why we have renewed the funding for the Great Lakes action plan in budget 2010. To restore the quality in the area, $8 million was invested in that per year and it's ongoing.
As well, in 2012 our government also announced it would commit $46.3 million to support its part of the project to clean up the contaminated areas in Randle Reef in Hamilton Harbour with Ontario, the City of Hamilton, Hamilton port, and U.S. Steel. As well, in the main estimates we are spending an additional $19.1 million to speak to the Randle Reef initiatives. Again, the total cost of the project is being shared equally with Canada and Ontario. As well, investments related to contaminated management projects have been completed in some areas.
Investments are being made to address the very concerns that have been raised by the committee as well. Again, we wouldn't be able to do this without the partnerships of various stakeholders and governments in addressing that. We are moving forward in this important initiative.
I want to take up on something Mr. McKay talked about, the notion of volatile weather events causing damage and great harm.
I'm more familiar with the Canadian prairies situation. Not that I was around then, but looking back at the records, and looking at records is the only way to determine whether weather has gotten more volatile or not—impressions are simply not good enough—the dry years we had were in the 1930s. Then 1961 was a dry year. The 1980s were dry. The 1990s were wet. The 2000s were a combination of wet and dry years.
In terms of flooding, 1826 was the worst flood in prairie Canada that we had, then the 1950 Winnipeg flood, the 1997 flood, the 2011 flood, and the 2013 Calgary events.
The reason I'm bringing that up is that weather volatility has been with us for a long time. When people talk about extreme weather events and linking it to doing something about these extreme weather events, who immediately dive into the topic of reducing carbon emissions and dealing with climate change, there's an obvious question that arises.
The minister made the point that Canada has 2% of carbon emissions in the world. That's a fact; it's not an opinion. So if Canada, for example, were to completely eliminate carbon emissions—or, say, cut them in half so we are now 1% of the world's carbon emissions—would we change the weather? That's the implication of those kinds of statements. Would we see any change in this volatility?
I'll take a couple of angles at that.
Yes, it's true that we are 2% of global emissions. It is a global problem, and if we're going to be tackling it, everybody has to contribute. In fact, that's been an approach that Canada has taken to the international negotiations for a number of years, that it's important to get all of the emitters around the table. We all have a role to play, but everybody has to be there. We're a player, but we're relatively small. By ourselves, we are not going to influence the course of climate change.
At the same time, we take our commitment seriously in terms of trying to meet our targets for Copenhagen and do what we can on mitigation. But the other side of what we're looking at that's in the global discussions for our domestic plans is adaptation and doing the best we can to put information out there and help people adapt to these extreme weather events, because when they happen they do cost money. They obviously cause people discomfort and distress, and we need to figure out ways to help adapt to those situations.
We do try to take on mitigation where we can, in the context of all the other and admittedly some much larger players than us. But on the adaptation side, as the minister said, we've put a significant amount of money toward adaptation to try to help deal with this whenever we have it. Because no matter how successful we are on the mitigation front, we're probably still going to have to deal with some adaptation issues in Canada and elsewhere.
I want to remind committee members, however, of the statement that made by our minister on page 13. We're not only addressing issues in Canada but also committing $1.2 billion to support a range of climate change projects in 60 developing countries. This is part of our international efforts as well. That's part of the equation.
We need to move now, committee members, to the actual voting on the estimates. You have this in the briefing notes from the Library of Parliament, pages 1 and 2, under Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, as well as Parks Canada.
I'm going to proceed down through these.
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$687,165,091
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$52,789,150
Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........$107,286,053
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AGENCY
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$28,227,786
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$451,381,399
Vote 5—Payments to the new Parks and Historic Sites Account..........$3,500,000
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall I report the main estimates to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: I will report these main estimates to the House on Monday when I file the report.