Good morning, everybody. Wet weather is always welcome when you're in the wetland conservation business.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. I'm Jamie Fortune. I'm the chief operating officer for Ducks Unlimited Canada and the executive responsible for our corporate and grassroots fundraising programs. I'm very pleased to speak to you today about our organization's 77-year legacy of meaningful and effective private sector partnerships in support of local wetland habitat conservation across Canada. We're a registered Canadian charity, and we operate in partnership with private businesses and all levels of government in Canada.
Ducks Unlimited was founded by a group of forward-thinking and conservation-minded business leaders who took action when North America's wetland populations and waterfowl populations were on the brink of collapse at the height of the Great Depression and the prairie dust bowl. Those were very trying times for our economy, our industry, our governments, and our wildlife. However, it was the vision of those business leaders that helped to advance wetlands and waterfowl conservation across the continent.
My remarks today will focus on four key areas that illustrate how private sector leadership has been the driving force behind our work since then. These four areas are: private land partnerships; voluntary offsetting by industry; our partnerships with industry; and lastly, sponsorships and affinity relationships.
The first area is partnerships with private landowners. First and foremost, private land partnerships are at the very heart of our mission. Since 1938 we've been working with farmers, ranchers, rural property owners, private businesses, and governments at all levels to ensure that those who are interested in wetland conservation can get the science-based information, conservation advice, technical services, and financial support they need. Today, we're engaged with 18,000 private landowner partners across the country, coast to coast to coast.
A recent and local example I'd like to share with you is that of Susan Prior, who lives just west of the city here, near Carp, Ontario. A few months ago, Ms. Prior signed a long-term agreement with Ducks Unlimited to rehabilitate drained wetlands on her historic farm property near Carp. That farm was settled in the very early 1800s. It's just 30 minutes west of Parliament Hill. In this partnership, thanks in part to support from the federal government's national wetland conservation fund, Ms. Prior retains full ownership of her land, and we're able to restore critical habitat for the benefit of fish and wildlife and also for species at risk. In the case of Ms. Prior, we used sound science when we worked with her to secure this habitat. Also, while we restore habitat, we're employing public sector and private sector funds to achieve her goals alongside ours and to achieve our mission and thus generate ecological benefits for Canadians over the long term.
Next is voluntary offsetting by industry. Canada's corporate leaders are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impacts and to transition towards more sustainable ways of doing business. Where our interests converge, Ducks Unlimited is proud to engage the private sector in these efforts through our voluntary offsetting initiatives. Loosely defined, a voluntary offset is a combination of measures or investments made by organizations to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts. This is all done outside a legislative regulatory framework that otherwise would force them to do so. Other elements of voluntary offsets include prepayment or banking of offsetting initiatives against future commercial undertakings. Many organizations and companies feature these activities as part of their corporate social responsibility programming. A number of leading companies involved in the development of the Alberta oil sands have land reclamation strategies in place to offset the impacts of their mining and processing activities. While these are long term and the efforts to fully rehabilitate the landscape are ongoing, in order to minimize their overall impacts right now, these companies purchase conservation offsets aimed at maintaining the ecological integrity of lands near their operations.
I'll share an example with you. This one is in southern Alberta, where Shell Canada contributed $3 million towards the securement of our Buffalo Hills conservation ranch. It is located just outside Calgary. It includes 4,130 acres of pristine native grasslands and close to an additional 1,800 acres of hay lands that are supporting breeding, migrating, and wintering waterfowl and 159 species of birds, as well as mammals and amphibians. The Buffalo Hills ranch is the largest contiguous land acquisition that our organization has made, and it was enabled by a voluntary offset payment.
The third area is industry partnerships. One of the most important ways we're working to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada's wetlands is through environmental education programs. These programs are aimed at students from kindergarten to high school. They provide more than 36,000 participants across Canada with teaching resources for their classroom and real-life, hands-on experiences with local wetland ecosystems in their communities. Our private sector partners have been integral to the success of these programs. These partners are sponsors, meaning that they provide funds for specific initiatives and activities and are associated with our brand.
Last year Giant Tiger Stores and the North West Company joined together for a five-year commitment to us in support of our Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, a 9,000-acre, world-class, award-winning wetland management area close to Winnipeg. It's 30 kilometres of trails through marshes, croplands, and tall grass prairie. It provides outstanding opportunities for education as well as tourism.
In another example, Talisman Energy began partnering with us on Project Webfoot, our education program in Alberta, in 2004. This program specifically links to grades 4 to 6 curricula across Canada, giving students the opportunity to apply classroom learning and connect with nature through field trips. That outdoor connection is very, very important. Our relationship with Talisman has been ongoing since 2004. In 2011 they became our first national education sponsor, supporting us at the national level. They continue to support Project Webfoot. They've also helped us establish two new wetland centres of excellence, in Quebec and British Columbia.
These companies achieve their corporate goals and we have financial support. It's a win-win situation.
The last area is affinity relationships. In these affinity relationships we license our brand to a corporation. For example, a corporate affinity credit card through MBNA Canada has really helped us drive a lot of conservation impact. This is a major credit card issuer, and I believe we were the first affinity partner they had when they came to Canada years ago. They're now owned by TD Bank. We receive an annual financial payment from MBNA based on the usage of these affinity cards. They've also sponsored our programs. They support conservation fellowships, the grant program that funds graduate research in waterfowl and wetland biology.
The success of these relationships is a real tribute to the commitment of our supporters across the country, who choose to get these products, use them every day, and by doing so support conservation delivery through their day-to-day activities.
These mechanisms and partnerships are just a few examples of how Ducks Unlimited Canada is working with the private sector to deliver results. These relationships are win-win in that both Ducks Unlimited and our partners achieve specific outcomes. By the very nature of the work we do, there are also significant benefits to the environment, to Canadians, and to society.
The work that's already going on through these partnerships is significant. We also believe there are concrete steps the federal government can take right now to encourage new productive relationships.
In particular, the government can expand funding for core existing programs that currently encourage private sector investment. These are matching programs. These include, in particular, the national wetland conservation fund, the natural areas conservation program, the joint ventures of the North American waterfowl management plan, and the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program.
Second, we can legislate and develop national guidelines and best practices for habitat-based offsetting and implement these on federal lands and all federally funded infrastructure projects as per the 1991 federal policy on wetland conservation. The consistent application of firm policy is beneficial to industry and Canadians. Simply put, all governments need to make it easier to conserve and restore habitat than to destroy it.
Thank you for your time this morning and for your interest in this important subject. I look forward to answering any questions you may have later.
Bonjour. Chair, Vice-Chairs, and members, thank you very much for this opportunity.
The Ecology Action Centre is not as big or as old as Ducks Unlimited; however, we're at respectable middle age. We started in 1971. We have 4,000 members. We're based in Nova Scotia, but we work across Canada. This morning I'd like to provide you with some examples of how the Ecology Action Centre works with the private sector, followed by some observations in that regard.
I do have a warning. I read this out to my son this morning and he said, “Good, but dull.”
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Mark Butler: The EAC began in 1971. One of our first projects was paper recycling. We bought a little cube van and picked up newspapers. Today, recycling is big business. The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries estimates that 34,000 people are directly employed in recycling. The moral of the story is that if you want tomorrow's business ideas, check out what environmental groups are doing today.
Another early project of ours, which continues today, is that of selling Christmas trees grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This is both a fundraiser and an awareness raiser. Currently, we partner with Christmas tree grower Kevin Veinotte of Lunenburg County and sell approximately 450 trees each December.
In 2005, the Ecology Action Centre, along with other environmental groups, initiated the Colin Stewart Forest Forum. To quote from a provincial report from several years ago:
The Colin Stewart Forest Forum is a protected areas planning process initiated by leading...ENGOs...and the four largest forestry companies operating in Nova Scotia. It formed to resolve conflict among ENGOs and the forestry industry over the future of Nova Scotia’s remaining wilderness....
The industry was looking for more certainty around wood supply and the environmental groups for more certainty around land protection. It worked.
We also partner with the private sector to promote marine conservation and, in particular, better fishing practices. We are a member of SeaChoice, a Canada-wide program that helps businesses and consumers make choices to support the health of marine ecosystems. SeaChoice works closely with seafood suppliers, retailers, and restaurateurs across Canada to help them and consumers purchase sustainably caught seafood.
We also helped launch the Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery. You may have heard of community supported agriculture, or CSA. This is the same thing, but it's for fish, not vegetables. Off the Hook works to connect a co-operative of small-scale bottom-hook-and-line groundfish fishermen from the Bay of Fundy with consumers in Halifax.
Not surprisingly, the Ecology Action Centre is active on mitigating and adapting to the impact of a changing climate and a warming world. In this regard, we have partnered with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and individual insurance companies such as Intact Insurance.
The industry of course has extensive and detailed data on climate impact. To quote from an article in the Financial Post from November 2011:
“What is causing it [climate change] is not our area of expertise but we agree the climate is changing,” says Michael Tremblay, director of research with the Insurance Bureau, which says severe-storm-related water damage now comprises 44% of claims compared to just 22% in 1992.
The insurance industry has a saying: water is the new fire.
The private sector is often the funder of environmental work. The TD friends of the environment program and RBC's blue water project come to mind.
At the Ecology Action Centre, many of our supporters are small to mid-sized businesses. We have 10 companies that are sustainability allies, and they range from a real estate company to a pizzeria, to a landscaper, to a brewery. We are also a member of One Percent for the Planet.
There are other examples, which I have omitted in the interest of time. Following are a few observations, and again, they are by no means inclusive.
The first observation is that we are neither a cheerleader for nor a detractor of the private sector; perhaps “agnostic” is the right word. As described, we work closely with the private sector. Certain segments of the private sector are showing increased leadership on environmental matters. At the same time, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to address and remedy the actions of the private sector, actions that are harming or threatening the environment.
EAC's engagement and partnership with the private sector are increasing, likely due partly to a growth in the capacity and the maturity of our organization, but I think it's also a reflection of external independent factors, a few in particular.
First, the private sector is simply showing more leadership on environmental matters, both because it is good for business and because business people are people and they get that it is the right thing to do.
Second, the private sector is showing more leadership because government isn't. There is a vacuum, and the private sector, along with NGOs and individuals, is trying to fill it.
Third, progress is achieved through the private sector, government, and citizens working together. As a parent, I don't expect government to leave child safety to the discretion of the private sector, nor would I expect protection of the environment to be left up to the private sector alone. The growth of the renewable energy industry is a great example of how the government and the private sector can work together globally. The power of the markets, certain policies of the government, and the application of technology are a powerful combination.
Fourth and last, the debate is often framed in terms of a private remedy versus a state or public remedy. Increasingly we are seeing the integration of market and social goals in the form of social enterprises. A social enterprise is defined as a business created to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable manner.
Thank you. I look forward to taking any of your questions.
Hello, Mr. Butler. It's nice to see you here from Ottawa instead of at home.
I'm actually going to pick up a little bit from where Mr. Woodworth left off on the fisheries issue and Off the Hook, the community-supported fishery, which is a fantastic initiative. I've had the occasion to go and meet some of the fishermen down Brier Island way, down Digby Neck. I think it's an interesting project because you are working with the private sector, obviously. There are fishermen involved. It's sort of formed like a co-op. I buy a share and every week I get fresh fish. It's amazing.
You're working with the private sector there, but then the work that's happening through Off the Hook stands in pretty stark contrast to the bigger fisheries in our region that are taking a different approach to the fisheries, one that is perhaps less sustainable. There's the community-supported fishery. I know the EAC also does a lot of work on trying to get changes to legislation so that we can have more initiatives like community-supported fisheries versus the big bottom-trawling fishery, which is dragging the nets and leaving this empty sort of dead highway behind them where they've scooped up everything.
How does that work, this working with the private sector, sort of small-scale private sector, if that's a phrase, but then also needing to work with government to change legislation for a fundamental shift in how we do fishing in this country?
As Ms. Leslie knows, this is a question dear to my heart. Prior to working at the Ecology Action Centre, I worked in the commercial fishery for a number of years as a deckhand, so I've seen first-hand the effects of poor management, both on the environment and on people and the economy of southwest Nova Scotia. For example, at one time we had hundreds of handline fishermen. These are small-boat fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia, who basically fish like you and I do, with a bunch of hooks. When the fish are there, when there's biomass in the water, then this method of fishing can be highly effective and it produces a high-quality product.
Today, unfortunately, there are almost no handliners left in southwest Nova Scotia, or most of Atlantic Canada. To me, that's a real sadness and a real missed opportunity because I think there's a growing market for fish caught in this manner.
To answer your question, I think it's both. You have to do this work where you work with fishermen individually and try to use the markets to reward those fishermen who are fishing in a more sustainable manner. At the same time, and I think this is one of the great tragedies of fisheries policy in Canada, despite the collapse and the huge economic hit that this region took—40,000 jobs lost and never really recovered—we have not addressed the base causes of the fisheries collapse, which included technology.
The market, in the absence of strong federal policy, has been a problem for many years, not just the last 10. It's been a problem for the last 20 since the collapse in the early nineties. There has been no real, strong government response. I think what's happening is that the private sector is stepping up. We have the marine stewardship certification program, which has its pluses and minuses, but it's an attempt by large players and the WWF to help the consumer, guide the consumer, in purchasing sustainably caught seafood.
Perhaps I was a little long, but it's a passionate topic for me.
Irving Oil is a significant energy company based in New Brunswick, right there in Saint John. They have a very large refinery. I believe it processes 300,000 barrels a day. It's a significant refinery. As you go into the refinery, there's a beautiful restored wetland there in the tidal area. It's our Red Head project and has been on the ground there for about 20 years, I believe. It's an on-site kind of mitigation offsetting exercise that was undertaken. That's an example.
When you partner with corporations like the Irving Oil group, you work with these companies around their values and your values. One of the values of Mr. Arthur Irving, who was one of our presidents at Ducks Unlimited Canada for a while, is education and research in the future, so Irving Oil, Ducks Unlimited, and Acadia University have established a research station in Beaubassin, New Brunswick. It's a beautiful area on the edge of the Bay of Fundy. Irving Oil supported the re-establishment of that facility, and they also provide some funding support, as we do, for students who are conducting research there on salt marsh restoration and the impacts of natural habitats in mitigating high tides, and how that's contributing to carbon sequestration and habitat—all the same functions that Mr. Butler was talking about—as well as naturalizing shorelines. That's a second example.
Also, for any other projects or initiatives that we're working on, the Irvings can be relied upon to support us financially on smaller-scale projects.
Well I have to say that those migratory birds are a lot smarter than MPs.
I think if you sought it, Chair, we might have unanimous consent to decamp the committee to Mexico, for February and March at least. We need to do a study.
An hon. member: We could do a video conference.
Hon. John McKay: Following up on Mr. Sopuck's and Mr. Toet's conversations, we have wetlands giving ecological benefits and carbon sequestration, nutrient runoff, as Mr. Toet pointed out, runoff generally—all that sort of stuff. We have the rural communities providing urban and near urban communities, and possibly other rural communities, with a significant benefit for which nobody is getting paid. That's going to carry on for the foreseeable future.
Absent a carbon pricing regime, be it at the federal level or provincial level, how do you propose that those communities or individual landowners—assuming there was a will—be paid for their significant benefit, other than if you will through the goodwill of corporations? Everybody does everything for a variety of motivations, maybe even greenwash and things of that nature. Outside of a carbon pricing regime, how do you price that benefit?