Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me.
Today, I'll limit my remarks to agriculture, since that's what we're working on at Smart Prosperity, although I should note that Smart Prosperity has argued elsewhere for the important role of clean innovation and market incentives for enhancing forest carbon sinks and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the forestry sector, including through innovative bioenergy and other bioproducts and for moving towards a resource efficient, circular economy.
Canada is already a greenhouse gas efficient producer of crops and livestock. The sector has more than doubled the value of its output over the past decade or so, while keeping emissions near constant, which has caused the sector's overall greenhouse gas emissions intensity to decline by 0.9% per year from 1990 to 2012. Due to improved feeding practices and other factors, we are also one of the most greenhouse gas-efficient animal protein producers in the world. This means that increasing Canada's export market share could potentially decrease global greenhouse gas emissions, if our production is causing production in other jurisdictions to decline.
Agriculture currently accounts for only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, but as Canada and the world move towards deep decarbonization, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from crop and livestock production will increasingly require action from industry and policy-makers. This is particularly crucial if we are to meet our ambitious growth targets set out in the agricultural economic sector table report, as well as our long-term potential to meet the economy's burgeoning demand for safe, quality food.
Given tight margins and an industry that competes on a global market, the most realistic long-term solutions involve innovative technologies and practices, including but not limited to improved crop and livestock genetics, changes in animal diets, using technology and big data to improve nutrient management and emerging technologies for producing low-carbon fertilizer. Governments have a clear role to play in fostering this innovation.
We need to start acting now because promising opportunities for low-cost reductions in the agricultural sector are currently available and can potentially improve the sector's competitiveness. Based on our preliminary research at Smart Prosperity, we believe that the most promising efforts to reduce emissions, while maintaining producers' profitability, will be to improve nutrient applications and that's mainly nitrogen from fertilizer. There is extensive evidence from Canada and elsewhere that modest reductions in fertilizer application rates can enhance farmers' profits. For example, one recent study estimated that advanced nitrogen best management practices for corn in Ontario, and canola, wheat and barley in Alberta could potentially decrease per acre nitrous oxide emissions by 29% to 33% relative to the reference case. This is a win-win because it also increased profits by anywhere from $29 to $71 per acre.
Potential policy instruments to achieve this include improved extension and certification services, innovative tools, such as income support and insurance schemes, reverse auctions or cross-compliance schemes. As well, we can improve access to technology, such as seasonal weather forecasting services.
Enhanced carbon sequestration will also play a role in reducing the sector's carbon footprint, although technical and institutional hurdles pose some challenges for creating a substantial and viable offsets market. In part, this is due to issues of permanence, additionality, transaction costs and possibly the low price commanded on the market for offsets. We believe at Smart Prosperity that the economic growth potential for agriculture is enormous, but we need to take the long view. Sector growth should not be achieved through significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the last couple of decades have shown that smart policy choices can lead to simultaneous improvements in both economic and environmental performance.
Thank you for inviting me to speak here today.
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops was formed in 2013 specifically to facilitate cross-commodity collaboration on sustainability issues facing the grains sector. For our purposes, sustainability means social responsibility, environmental sustainability and economic viability.
Our members include, as you would expect, grain farmer organizations, grain marketers and grain customers, but we also include input suppliers, researchers and environmental organizations. The scope of our work, because we do say crops, is limited to grains, oilseeds and pulses.
In 2015, we embarked on a major initiative to provide fact-based information on the sustainability of Canadian grains. This culminated in the publication of our grains sustainability metrics platform in March 2018.
In the process of collecting and developing fact-based information, we undertook a major study to quantify greenhouse gas emissions, which we express as a carbon footprint, for the production of 10 major field crops in all of the regions of Canada where there is a substantial production of that grain. This study was completed in 2017. We used internationally recognized carbon life-cycle analysis methodology. It was produced under the oversight of academic and government researchers and was peer reviewed. It's my understanding that the results are actively being used by several government departments as the latest information on carbon footprint for crops.
I'm going to share some of the results with you today. In front of you, you will have a chart. It shows the results of the carbon footprint for eight of the 10 crops that we surveyed that are grown in Saskatchewan.
This shows the actual greenhouse gas emissions, kilograms per tonne of crop produced. The orange is from fertilizer manufacturing. The green is from energy use on the farm to grow and harvest the crops, specific to the crop. The blue is the GHG emissions from seeds and pesticides. The pink is the GHG emissions from nitrous oxide emissions, which include emissions from crop residue in the field, which is a natural biological decomposition, and from nitrogen fertilizer that escapes into the air or runs off the field. The grey is a soil organic carbon change.
Referring specifically to the soil organic carbon change numbers, these are all negative. This signifies that the production of each of the crops is resulting in a carbon sink. In Saskatchewan, not all across the country, but in Saskatchewan, that is the case.
For example, looking at canola, which is currently the largest crop by volume in Saskatchewan, the GHG emissions are reduced by 43% because of the sequestration of the carbon in the soil. For wheat, it's a 60% reduction. For field peas and lentils, it more than balances the greenhouse gas that is emitted from all other sources. The carbon footprint of crop production varies across Canada due to climate, the crops grown and the crop management practices. I've chosen Saskatchewan because the province has 45% of the crop land in Canada and because of the significant change that has occurred over the last 25 years in production practices that have led this region to being a significant carbon sink.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported in 2016 that agricultural soils represented a net source of 1.2 megatons of carbon dioxide in 1981, but in 2011, it became a net sink. There's no absolute change available for Saskatchewan, but they did report that in all parts of Saskatchewan they had over a 90 kilogram per hectare increase in soil organic carbon per year. It's the most significant. That's the top of the level that they measure.
What led to this sequestration? One factor contributed the most. That was a change in farm practices from full tillage to reduced tillage and no tillage.
As a bit of explanation, what full tillage means, as defined by Statistics Canada, is the sort of traditional ploughing, where most of the crop residue is reintroduced into the soil and the soil is basically bare. Reduced tillage retains most of the crop residue on the surface; it's not ploughed under, it's on the surface. No till means no disturbance at all; the seeding is done under the soil with equipment that goes in directly.
By adopting seeding and weed control practices that do not disturb the soil, the carbon remains in the soil. It's not released every year, and the growing process continues to add carbon, up to a limit. In 1991, only 10% of Saskatchewan was no till. By 2016, it was 74%, with an additional 20% in reduced tillage. That's a 94% change from conventional tillage to none or reduced.
What motivated farmers to do this? First and foremost, it was increased yield. By not disturbing the soil, water and organic matter was retained, leading to higher yields but also less risk of crop failure. Saskatchewan is a dry area.
Second, it was widespread practice to follow or let rest a certain percentage of the land each year to retain the moisture and the soil organic carbon, which is not necessary under no till. In 1981, 20% of the land was fallowed every year—taken out of production—and it was less than 1% in 2016. That meant that for each individual producer, they had 20% more land available to increase their income and also reduce their overall costs. It also meant lower farm equipment energy use, as well as significant reduction in the loss of soil due to wind erosion. That was a net effect.
There are many contributing factors to this adoption: first of all was innovation in equipment manufacturing. It wasn't by the big companies; it was by small local companies that were willing to take a risk and to start small and grow big.
There was investment by governments to assist in that innovation. There was research by academics and governments that demonstrated the benefits of adopting the new technology. They'll only believe their neighbours. Some will believe their neighbours; some will believe the research result.
The neighbours were very important. There were strong producer-based groups that championed adoption, usually by example, but there was also a science-based regulation system that permitted the introduction of crop protection products and crops that could be used with reduced tillage.
Although I've used Saskatchewan as an example, and Alberta is very similar, the adoption of no till and reduced tillage extends across Canada. In total, 60% of land in 2016 was under no till, and another 24% under reduced tillage.
However, there are limitations to the adoption of no till technology. It's not suited to some crops. The technology is not suited to some soils. Organic producers need tillage to control weeds, so it's not possible for any organic producers. The cost of acquiring the necessary specialized equipment is not necessarily feasible for the smaller operations that you might find in the Maritimes and in parts of Ontario and B.C. It's realistic, however, to expect some continued expansion of no till and reduced tillage, both of which contribute to soil organic carbon.
Although Mike and I had never met before today and we certainly had not had any discussions, I'd like you to turn your attention back to the pink part of the graph and the orange, which are nitrous oxide emissions and fertilizer manufacturing. If you're looking at ways for producers to improve their emissions while maintaining or improving their bottom lines, this is likely where it will have the most significant payoff.
As I indicated, biological processes such as crop decomposition, which contribute to nitrous oxide emissions, can't be controlled. Our surveys show that while generally producers follow good practices in the use of chemical fertilizers and manure, there are opportunities for improvement.
I'd like to highlight an approach that's taken by Fertilizer Canada to facilitate the adoption of the four Rs of fertilizer use: right source, right time, right place and right rate.
The research has shown that closely monitoring soil nutrient need and adjusting fertilizer type, amount, timing and method can significantly contribute to greenhouse gas reduction. As well, as Mike mentioned, producers can improve yield and reduce costs.
The reason this is so significant is that, in greenhouse gas equivalents, one nitrous oxide kilo is equivalent to 298 carbon. So, when you're talking about greenhouse gas carbon footprint, a small reduction in nitrous oxide emissions can significantly effect the carbon footprint.
Thank you for your attention. I'm available to answer questions.
Absolutely. I think it's important that we not couch this and say we need to hit these environmental targets, and so in order to do that we must produce less. Nobody wants that. We have very aggressive export targets set out in the Barton report and the economic round table. I think it's important. My family is from rural southwestern Ontario. We believe it's the economic opportunity for these communities.
I think these opportunities come in three areas. The first is increased yield and lower costs with the better use of fertilizer, use of technology, just producing more or producing more value on the same plot of land. I think that's the first opportunity.
The second opportunity is creating greener products. We've heard about organic. Agriculture is by its nature a sort of low-margin industry, but if there are ways that we can differentiate our products as being more green, which in many cases we are—our wheat has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world—and if we can use that when exporting and our international customers are willing to pay more for our wheat because it has a lower greenhouse gas footprint, that creates opportunity.
Third, if we can develop new technologies, again whether it be for fertilizer use or genomics or anything else, this will create a set of intellectual property that we can use to export. We've heard people like Jim Balsillie talk about the opportunities connected with creating IP in Canada. Instead of constantly being the importer of these technologies, we can export those technologies.
Ideally I would like to see those technologies manufactured in southwestern Ontario, where I'm from, but either way, if we own that intellectual property, that creates economic opportunities for all of Canada.
I'm glad you're with us this afternoon. Your testimony makes me really happy. This is good news, indeed.
You've both talked about good practices. There is technology that allows us to do environmentally-friendly sustainable development while taking economic performance into account. For a number of years, we've been taking measures to develop our knowledge, which is a credit to Canadians. Mr. Moffat made a comment that I quite liked. He said that instead of importing technologies, we should keep our knowledge and export our green technology as well as our innovations in the field of sustainable development.
I read good news on the Smart Prosperity website. I want to mention it because I feel that it is important to see every positive thing that is done for the environment. We're not only just discovering that environment matters, and it is not true that nothing was done in the past. Various governments implemented measures. The previous government was conservative, and its predecessor was liberal. All partisanship aside, I am happy to see really concrete results. In the Conservative Party, we've been labelled anti-environment. Whenever I can, I say that it's not true that Conservatives get up every morning to destroy our planet.
I read the following headlines on the Smart Prosperity website: “Meet an oil sands project that will capture and store 1M tonnes of carbon in the ground every year”; “Turning manure into renewable fuel”; “Neighbourhoods that blend in with nature”; “Fabricating metals the carbon neutral way”; “Fuelling more sustainable air travel — A mustard-based biofuel that will revolutionize your next flight”; and “Storing energy locally”.
This last article talks about Sigma, an energy storage business which was created in 2011. This company has done a lot of research and development, and has managed to develop interesting technologies. As was mentioned earlier by Mr. Moffatt, the government should provide financial support to these companies so they can go further and faster.
Today, there are solutions. I recently met representatives from Coca-Cola who showed me that they take very active measures in that sense. Companies are increasingly more aware of this reality. This didn't happen by magic these past three years. They have been aware for years, and they area implementing measures to protect our environment.
My question is simple. Given all technological advances that have been made to this day, is the carbon tax really necessary? I'm inviting you both to answer this question.
They're not in British Columbia. They're headquartered in Ottawa, and they're praising the B.C. carbon tax, which is 112%.
I live in British Columbia, and I can tell you first-hand that this is not what British Columbians sense. It's an extremely high cost of living, so it is having an impact. Emissions are going up. Canada will not meet its Paris targets in 2020. That's the perspective of people who are under that burden.
I'm thinking of the importance of the agricultural sectors in Canada. I'm thinking of the testimony I heard that Canada is a world leader. We're the model that the rest of the world is following in many sectors and in many ways.
I'm thinking of the production of aluminum. The cleanest place in the world to have aluminum manufactured is in Canada. In Canada, there are two tonnes of GHG for every one tonne of aluminum; in China, it's eleven.
Where should the aluminum be made, if we truly look at the issue of climate change as a global crisis? Where is the best place to make the aluminum? Well, it's Canada. If we produce more aluminum in Canada, then our GHGs go up, making it more difficult to reach the targets.
Now I'm going to go into your sectors.
Where is the best place to grow food? It's in Canada. In your testimony, you said the cleanest place in the world to grow grains and food is Canada.
I'm thinking of testimony that I heard from the aviation industry. They've reduced their emissions. I think it was 30% below 2005 levels already. All the major airlines in Canada are asking why should they have to pay a carbon tax when they've already achieved and exceeded the Paris targets. They will continue to improve, but this is a burden that they've said to me is unfair.
I hope you understand my perspective. Yes, we have to do better globally. If Canada is one of the world leaders, are you suggesting that we cut back on our production or should we expand our production if we're the cleanest model in the world? Should we cut back, stay static, and just get cleaner, or actually produce more?
That's my question.
I appreciate how we're bringing up the issue of carbon pricing once again in this discussion at our committee. I think it's a pervasive topic, and the sooner we get our minds wrapped around how important pollution pricing is, the better.
I appreciated Mr. Moffatt's remarks, which could leave no one with any doubt that your opinion is it's a necessary but insufficient measure. It's one of a suite of initiatives. Thank you for clarifying that. I know your economic expertise from Western precedes you, and that's not just the opinion from Smart Prosperity, as I understand it, but yours also as an academic at Western.
We've heard from the Grain Growers of Canada that they are concerned about the applicability of the fuel charge on fuels that would be used to dry crops. We're talking about situations of flooding, wet weather at inopportune times, where the farmers have no choice. I know there are grain growers in the Pontiac who consider this an important issue.
Could you comment on how expensive a proposition it would be to provide the coverage or provide that exemption, if you would, to those farmers for those fuels? I'm not clear on the cost associated with that fuel usage, and the full extent of it across Canada.
Perhaps you could comment on that, Ms. Miller.
Mr. Chair, and committee members, thank you. It's a great privilege to join you here today. It's always a privilege to visit this committee and all of the House committees.
I'm Michael Nadler. I am the interim chief executive officer of Parks Canada. The last time we presented with you, Daniel Watson was sitting in that role.
With me today is Sylvain Michaud, Chief Financial Officer at Parks Canada Agency.
As I mentioned, we're really happy to be with you. It's a privilege for us to present to you.
If you don't mind, I would like to give a brief overview of the Supplementary Estimates (A) 2018-2019 for Parks Canada Agency.
With your permission, as you mentioned, I'd like to begin with a short overview of the Parks Canada Agency supplementary estimates (A) for the fiscal year 2018-19. Then, we'd be pleased to receive any questions committee members might have.
The agency's supplementary estimates (A) submission amounts to an increase to the agency's voted appropriations of $45.5 million. This is approximately 3% of Parks Canada's voted authorities to date for the fiscal year. These supplementary estimates would bring the agency's proposed voted authorities to date to $1.69 billion for the current fiscal year.
This funding is requested for six initiatives.
First, there is $21 million to purchase a unique and important property located within the boundary of Bruce Peninsula National Park. The funds originate with budget 2018 for the protecting Canada's nature, parks and wild spaces initiative. This parcel of land will bring the Bruce Peninsula National Park to nearly 90% completion. It's home to 10 species at risk as well as rare ancient cliff-edge ecosystems. The expansion of Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the priority initiatives of a nature legacy for Canada.
Second, there is $14.8 million, also from budget 2018, to help us conclude an impact and benefit agreement for Nahanni National Park Reserve and advance indigenous collaborative management and reconciliation initiatives at Tallarutiup Imanga, or Lancaster Sound, the marine conservation area in Nunavut. These efforts are also part of a nature legacy for Canada and support the advancement of conservation of natural and cultural heritage while strengthening Parks Canada's collaborations and relationships with indigenous peoples.
Third, there is $7.5 million from budget 2017 to provide a contribution to the Trans Canada Trail, which is a registered non-profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing and maintaining Canada's Great Trail, a national network of multi-use recreational trails that links 15,000 communities across the country and spans some 24,000 kilometres. Canada's Great Trail is one of the longest recreational trail systems in the world.
Fourth, there is $1.1 million to advance Parks Canada's involvement in negotiations on rights reconciliation agreements with the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Peskotomuhkati first nations in the Atlantic region. These negotiations are for renewal of treaty-related measures on fisheries governance and access and to test new treaty-related measures relating to governance and fisheries access. Also being negotiated in these treaty-related measures are stewardship of natural and cultural resources, harvesting and co-operative management in Parks Canada places in the region.
Fifth, there is $673,000 from Treasury Board to provide for surge capacity to increase support services to employees with pay issues at Parks Canada as a result of the implementation of the Phoenix pay system. This includes assistance in informing employees of the support and information available to them.
Sixth, there is $475,000 in the form of a transfer from the Department of Transport to complete three climate risk assessment reports looking at climate change risks to highway infrastructure in Kootenay National Park, the Trans-Canada Highway in Glacier National Park, and the Eastport causeway highway in Terra Nova National Park.
The transportation assets risk assessment program's aim is to improve the understanding of climate risks to federal transportation infrastructure by providing those responsible for the assets with the information upon which investment decisions and asset management plans can be based in the future.
Thank you for your attention. We'll be glad to answer any question you may have.
Many thanks, Mr. Chair and members, for your attention.
Sylvain and I would be pleased to take your questions at this time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks, folks. We appreciate your being here.
It's nice to see you again, Michael.
We studied and produced what I think was a really great report on protected areas, and I believe it was unanimous. We asked the government to do everything in its power to protect more land and nature. We had a recommendation that the federal government work directly with municipalities in acquiring land so that we could hit some of our targets. The government delivered. They announced the $1.3 billion, of course, to protect nature, parks and wild spaces in our budget 2018.
Bruce Peninsula National Park was a file that our chair, Mr. Aldag, worked on back when he was a public servant with Parks, so I'm happy to be his voice now that he's chairing, because he's not allowed to ask questions. I'm sure, though, that this would be the one he would ask. I know that he and many Canadians have advocated for the expansion of Bruce Peninsula.
You mentioned in your remarks, Michael, and I was happy to hear that Parks Canada had reached an agreement to acquire a parcel of land in Georgian Bay to expand this park, so $21 million is included in the estimates for this acquisition.
I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about this land parcel, specifically its significance, maybe ecologically. I'm not from that area of the country. I don't have the in-depth knowledge that our chair would have on this, but I do find it fascinating, because we have a park that I consider to be Halifax's Rouge Park in Blue Mountain-Birch Cove. I hope someday I'll be reading a question to a Parks Canada person about a massive acquisition of land in Halifax for our version of this park or Rouge Park.
Sure. I could give a bit of context on that acquisition.
Actually, since 1987, when the park was established—now it's a provincial park and before it was a national park—we've made 140 parcel purchases of land to complete the park. This is among the most sizeable....
The lands being acquired are 1,300 hectares, or 3,217 acres. The lands themselves are cliff-edge ecosystem lands, so there is significant waterfront on these lands. There is some recreational trail infrastructure there as well. There's a facility on the lands.
Important to Parks Canada is that these lands protect some unique ecosystems in the region. There is some karst geography there, as well. Sandstone geography is relatively rare in the region, and important for us to protect.
As I mentioned in my remarks, there are 10 species at risk in the area. Habitats for these species are in this 1,300 hectares, including a habitat that's used by the massasauga rattlesnake, which is an important species that we're protecting in that region.
It brings that park to 90% completion. We're still not quite complete with the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Before considering any expansion, we'd want to focus on completing the park.
It's funny. I feel obligated to talk about the parks in Alberta after hearing my colleagues talk about parks, but rather than get Mr. Stetski a cookie, I will say how much I enjoy travelling through his area. I spend a significant amount of time, of course, in the neighbouring province. It's right on the border with Alberta. It's a beautiful part of the country.
As much as I'd like to talk about those things, I'm probably not going to take up too much of your time in terms of where I'm going to go with my time.
We have had a few challenges in this committee in terms of those of us who believe in the principle that the minister should come before the committee on supplementary estimates when we're voting on an extra $85 million being spent, especially when we hear that the minister has turned us down but was in the House literally immediately before the committee speaking. She's clearly here; she represents a riding that's here. We want to make sure as committee that we give her every chance to appear, because I'm sure she really wants to come before the committee. Maybe we were too restrictive in our time frame by only offering committee slots to her.
I'm going to move a motion right now, which I gave notice of previously:
That the Committee invite the Minister of the Environment to appear before the Committee at any time over the next two weeks to answer questions on the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2018-19.
Just to be clear on this motion for Liberal colleagues, it's an invitation. It's not a demand that the minister appear. It's an invitation from our committee. We are the environment committee of the House of Commons and it seems to make sense that we would invite the to appear before committee. We're giving a broad window of time to the minister to appear. We want to give her every opportunity to come. I note that in taking a look at the history of this committee during the years from 2006 to 2015 there was only one year, I believe, when the minister didn't appear on supplementary estimates, and I don't believe that this specifically has appeared on supplementary estimates yet.
That is where we would like to go. Given that the last time we moved a motion similar to this the Liberals basically moved adjournment to shut down debate on it, I'm excited to see an Alberta member of Parliament on the Liberal side here today, because of course, he'll be interested to know that there's significant money to implement Bill . I'm sure he's hearing from constituents on that issue just as much as I am, so given the opportunity to vote on whether to invite the , I'm certain the member will be excited to have that opportunity.
I would love to get an indication from Liberal members before I give up my time, so if anybody were to indicate that they would support the motion, it would be nice to know that now. We could move on. I'm not seeing any indication, so I'll continue with my arguments, and hopefully we can convince somebody over there. We only need to convince one.
In doing that, I will reference, as I did at the last meeting, the mandate letter to the . I think it's an important place to start. It's a letter from the , who was, I guess, the host to 2,000 Calgarians, it sounds like, or thousands of Calgarians, who came out to get the chance to be in the neighbourhood of the Prime Minister—maybe not in his presence—to express their thoughts on Bill and other policies of the government in the last week.
His mandate letter to Minister says in part, “Canadians expect us to fulfill our commitments, and it is my expectation that you will do your part in delivering on those promises to Canadians.”
Of course, we're here assessing an ask for an extra $85 million in a context of a budget that's almost $20 billion in deficit. Again, the has written, “Canadians expect us to fulfill our commitments, and it is my expectation that you will do your part in delivering on those promises.”
I'll reference one particular promise from the Liberal platform. I'll quote it here. This is from the 2015 Liberal platform and I think is an important context to the conversation. It's from page 12. Some members of the committee might be very familiar with this. It says:
We will run modest short-term deficits of less than $10 billion in each of the next two fiscal years to fund historic investments in infrastructure and our middle class. After the next two fiscal years, the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return Canada to a balanced budget in 2019.
It's a very clear promise, just in case anyone had missed it. I noticed that Mr. Amos is on his phone, so maybe he missed this and would be interested.
I'll repeat it. “After the next two fiscal years, the deficit will decline and our investment plan will return to a balanced budget in 2019.” This is 2015, by the way.
It's a very clear promise. Reflecting on the mandate letter to the which says, “Canadians expect us to fulfill our commitments, and it is my expectation that you will do your part in delivering on those promises to Canadians”, one would expect that she would be excited to come and talk about supplementary estimates. It has her asking for spending of $85 million more.
Now, moving on within that mandate letter, it says, “I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments, and I expect all ministers to do their part individually and collectively.”
I would note that many ministers have appeared on supplementary estimates. In this case, we have $85 million and we have yet to hear from the on this.
I'll just continue because it's interesting reading here. It says, “Our platform guides our government. Over the course of our four-year mandate, I expect us to deliver on all of our commitments.”
I assume that means a balanced budget and also transparency and accountability in government, which was a big promise that was made.
I will note, just as an aside, that there was also a significant promise made over and over again about no more omnibus bills. It's interesting to note that promise in the context of maybe the biggest BIA we have ever seen in the history of our Parliament. There is no more use of closure or time allocation. I think the government is well on their way to the record books in terms of the use of time allocation. But, those are asides.
Darren says they'll never catch us. The interesting thing about it is we didn't actually promise not to do it. It was a very clear promise on your side though.
I am just reading again from the 's words. This one is particularly interesting in the context of the conversation we're having today. It reads:
As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and the public service.
Apparently, as , he's saying that his ministers will be held accountable for commitments. I think it's in that spirit that our committee wants to make sure we give the every opportunity to come before the committee because she's going to be held accountable for that. It's incumbent on us to make sure we open up our calendars, make sure that we're available at any time to fit within her busy schedule.
I've talked a lot about that. I want to talk about the importance in terms of her being here.
Look at the context of what's happening right now in Canada and what's happening in Oshawa. Our hearts go out to the folks in Oshawa. When you combine that with the tens of thousands of jobs lost in Alberta....
Kent, you'll know about this. Many of your constituents will have faced job loss in Calgary.
Look at the impact of the inability to get pipelines built in this country. When the election happened, there were three pipelines in the pipeline, so to speak. Three pipelines were in process. We had one that was approved, northern gateway. We had energy east, which was well on its way, and Trans Mountain, which was under way as well.
I'd love to get some indication from somebody across the way that they're going to support this invitation. Then we can move on as a committee.
No, I'm not seeing anything still, so I'll continue.
This is of huge interest in my constituency. For those of you who don't know this, I serve the largest constituency by population in the country, Edmonton—Wetaskiwin.
The Leduc-Nisku industrial area is one of the largest in North America. It has been hit significantly. My constituents have been hit significantly by decisions made by this government to create an environment where it's almost impossible to build pipelines in this country.
I can guarantee that my constituents want us to hear from the in regard to the supplementary estimates. They want us to have the opportunity as parliamentarians from all sides to ask questions.
It's not only the pipeline policy of this government that is having a negative effect; compounding it in their minds are the massive deficits that are being run up right now—over $60 billion in deficits, with no end in sight.
Do you know what they come back to? Time and time again they come back to the previous Trudeau era of the 1970s and early 1980s. What were the things that led to the devastating cuts that wound up happening in the mid- to late 1990s under the Chrétien government? It was the $35 billion in transfers that were cut from health care, social services and education. What was it that caused those cuts in the first place? Some might say it was 14 out of 15 years of deficits run by the original Trudeau government in the 1970s and 1980s. Some might say that it had something to do with the national energy program of 1982 which devastated the oil industry in Canada. That economic collapse led to rising interest rates that caused the debt to balloon out of control.
Some might say that they're very concerned, taking a look at the fiscal environment we have right now, where it seems like we're doing exactly the same thing. It seems like this government is doing the same thing that the previous Trudeau government did.
You have a circumstance where you have a government with a spending problem that is completely out of control. It's quite clear that they don't know how to deal with that spending problem, because if they did, they would have fulfilled their promise to balance the budget. It's quite clear that they're unable to do that.
One would assume that they want to do it. Every day in the House of Commons, the stands up and talks about how fantastic the economy is. There's no reason that the government couldn't and shouldn't be able to balance the budget based on revenues that they have coming in. They have increased spending by tens of billions of dollars, each and every year. There is no end in sight to that.
Here we are, sitting in the environment committee, studying $85 million in supplementary estimates. It's a committee where ministers of the environment have come for years to explain their supplementary estimates and answer questions from committee members.
You have a government where the has said, “As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government.” This is a quote from the Prime Minister. I'm not making this up. It goes on to say, “This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament, [and] Parliamentary Committees”. That's the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the . So here we are today.
The hope is when I come to the end of my time here that at least one Liberal member will put up their hand and say, “No, I don't think it's okay to adjourn the debate”, and when the vote comes, they will say, “Yes, I think it's appropriate for the environment committee to invite the to come before the committee on supplementary estimates.”
It is my hope that one member of Parliament from the Liberal side will have the courage to stand behind what his own has promised and simply vote to invite the to come before the committee. If it really doesn't work within the minister's schedule, she can say no.
We may not agree on everything, Wayne, but I think most of us on our side and, I assume, on the NDP side agree that there's a principle that when you make a promise, you should stick with that promise. There were clear commitments made during the campaign, and it is important in a democracy that the come before the committee to defend her ask for more money. I think Canadians expect us to do our job as a committee.
Mr. Chair, could I ask who else is on the speaking list?
I will be very brief because I see there is very little time left.
I simply want to say that it's an important exercise as far as expenses are concerned. As parliamentarians, we must be able to ask questions. During the 2015 campaign, the government committed to staying within budget, but it does not. It showed it once again with last week's Economic Statement.
For the sake of thoroughness, we would like to question the minister regarding unplanned overspending. These were exceptional expenses for which, unfortunately, the minister gave us no answer. We've even accepted to modify our schedule to be available to her. We know that she's busy, but we want to do our work in a very professional, conscientious, and rigorous manner.
It is disappointing to see what's happening here today. Even though, as Liberals across the table mentioned, the minister has appeared before us on six occasions, this topic should have been a priority given its importance. Unfortunately, Liberals do not give us the opportunity to ask questions.
That is the comment that I want to make, Mr. Chair.