Thank you for that intervention..
As I was saying, today we're here on the subject matter of supplementary estimates (B) 2018-19 and interim estimates 2019-20.
We're a bit late getting started because of the votes that we just had, but the intention is to have the three departments and agencies present provide opening statements, and then we'll go into our regular round of questions.
My suggestion is that we'll stay with the witnesses for an hour; that was, I think, the desire. The witnesses have made themselves available for us on very short notice, and we truly appreciate it. Then at the end of that period we'll move into the second part of the meeting, which will be in camera, going into the forestry, ag and waste study report.
That's the plan for the meeting and the remainder of the time that we have today.
The motion we had on Monday, or the direction I was given by the committee with agreement, is that we would invite the minister, and in her absence the parliamentary secretary, to join officials. That's what we did. We extended an invitation to the minister. We heard back that she was not available. We extended the invitation to the parliamentary secretary. We were told he was not available.
The invitation was made in good faith, as the committee asked me. I wasn't instructed to compel them to come. We invited them, and they weren't available. We said we would have departmental officials, and so we have many well-informed departmental officials here. I'm happy to hear their testimony and get into the discussion.
As we said on Monday, the minister has agreed that she will make herself available for the main estimates. We have that in writing, so there's agreement that she will be here for the mains. She was not able to come for the supps.
I think we had a brief discussion on Monday about the timing of this, because the supply day ended up being called for today, and so we won't be reporting back on these anyway. However, I still think we can have the conversation with the departmental officials about the intentions for these budgetary items that are before us. These have already essentially been deemed reported back to the House—they have gone back to the House as unreported.
That's where we are with the supps for today.
On that point, Chair, I appreciate the explanation and I trust that the intent was honourable, but the request to have the minister or the parliamentary secretary supported by department officials was made, I believe, by the committee, and as members of the opposition—and you have four members of the opposition—it is our only opportunity and our responsibility to question the government on the estimates and supplementary estimates.
If we do not—this is where it becomes a point of order—and our opportunity and responsibility to question the minister or parliamentary secretary was removed because of what happened....
To your point that this would have been passed anyway, the government has the authority to change and appoint when things happen, because it's a majority parliament. This is the second time while I've been on this committee that we as opposition members have not been given an opportunity to question the minister or to vote on the supplementary estimates.
I believe that's inappropriate and unparliamentary; our responsibilities are to question and have been removed because of the way this played out and, I believe, shouldn't have. This is the second time we cannot vote and cannot question.
Bosc and Gagnon, in the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, say on page 980—this is under chapter 20, regarding committees—under the title “To Send for Persons”:
Standing committees often need the collaboration, expertise and knowledge of a variety of individuals to assist them in their studies and investigations.
This is referring to witnesses whom this committee calls.
Usually these people appear willingly before committees when invited to do so. But situations may arise where an individual does not agree to appear and give evidence. If the committee considers that this evidence is essential to its study, it has the power to summon such a person to appear.
A committee exercises this power by adopting a motion to summon one or more individuals to appear before it at a set date, time and location. The summons, signed by the Chair of the committee, is served on each of the individuals by a bailiff. It states the name of the committee concerned, the matter for which the appearance is required, the authority under which it is ordered, and the date and location of the appearance. It also orders the witness to be available from the time of the appearance until duly released by the committee.
Under the further explanation on this, it is stated:
This power, delegated to standing committees by the House, is part of the privileges, rights and immunities which the House of Commons inherited when it was created. They were considered essential to its functions as a legislative body, so that it could investigate, debate and legislate, and are constitutional in origin.
We have heard from the House and the Speaker of the House that committees are independent. We have heard rumours that in a majority government such as we are experiencing, the PMO provides direction to the Liberal members, who will then take direction from the Prime Minister's Office and do what the Prime Minister's Office wants, and so there's a pre-determined outcome. But we are told that this is unparliamentary; that the committees are their own creatures, and we then have a level of trust that we build in working with one another.
This is the issue before us today—and this is, I believe, a sound point of order—that the chair received instruction from this committee to call two people, the minister or the parliamentary secretary, and one of those two people could be supported by officials. I respect officials, I appreciate their expertise, but we wanted the minister or the parliamentary secretary.
Those were the instructions, but this is not what we got. It was our responsibility to question the minister—and so that I don't repeat myself, it was very clear—and that was the responsibility of the chair.
What we have today is not what was directed by this committee.
I would ask you, Chair, did you, to deviate from the instructions that were given by the committee, contact either of the vice-chairs—and hopefully it was both vice-chairs who were contacted—to say, “We can't get the minister, or we can't the parliamentary secretary. Do I have your okay to continue the meeting on the topic of supplementary estimates? Can we go ahead without the minister or the parliamentary secretary?” It was clear that those were the people who were supposed to be here.
I look forward to your comment. This is not the first time this has happened, namely, that we have called for the minister to appear and the minister has refused to come to this committee. I don't know why she's refusing to come to this committee, but she has that responsibility.
My second question for you is whether we can by motion, as I've read here on page 980, summon such a person to appear. In this Parliament, does this standing committee have the power to ask a minister or a parliamentary secretary to be here, or is it a witness within the public?
It doesn't elaborate on that in this, but you have a clerk to support you in providing wise advice.
Does this committee have power or authority to call the minister or a parliamentary secretary and compel them to attend?
Thank you for your comments.
Page 982 of the book you just referenced notes that we cannot order a member or a senator to appear. In light of that direction, I took what was the committee's direction to me, which was to invite.... We invited them. We were told that they were not available.
However, the direction was also that we invite the departmental officials. We extended the invitation to departmental officials, and they were able to make themselves available.
The analysts were able to do a great service in providing a summary of the estimates. I had heard the official opposition make a great appeal to be able to study the estimates, because as you said, this was your one chance to scrutinize where the funds are going.
We decided to proceed with this portion of the meeting. That's why, when the notice went out, we had one hour with departmental officials and then one hour in camera for report review. That is where we've gone.
No, we can't compel the minister to come. We invited her and she declined. The parliamentary secretary declined. Page 982 says clearly that we cannot order a member of the House of Commons or a senator to appear. As I said, we invited them and they declined.
That's where I felt it was still in our interest to go forward with the meeting. You said that you would like to hear about and question anyone on where these funds are going. Having looked through the estimates, I think there are some great questions that we could ask our officials about with regard to some of the decisions being made on the funds before us.
Well, it's responding to your ruling.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Page 982 that you've referenced says:
There is no specific rule governing voluntary appearances by Members of the House of Commons before parliamentary committees. They may appear before a committee if they wish and have been invited.
This part is what I think is quite salient:
If a member of the House refuses an invitation to appear
—and we have that—
before a standing committee and the committee decides that such an appearance is necessary
—I think this is the perfect example of that, but what is the solution?—
it may so report to the House, and it will be up to the House to decide what measures should be taken.
I've read verbatim what's in the manual. We do not have the power to force the minister to be here. If the committee says, yes, a minister or parliamentary secretary is a reasonable person, to allow the members of the official opposition.... We're a democracy. We have an opposition. It's the parliamentary structure. Is it reasonable that we should have access at one of these standing committees to hear from the minister and for the minister or parliamentary secretary to be available to answer our questions on the supplementary estimates, the estimates and the mains? I would argue that, yes, it is reasonable.
We do not have the power, but we do have this option. If the member, minister or parliamentary secretary refuses an invitation to appear and the committee then decides that such an appearance is necessary—I would hope that I have that support from the Liberal members—it may report this to the House and it will be up to the House to decide what is the solution.
That would be my motion in response. You do not need 48 hours' notice on a motion that is relevant to what we're discussing right now. Or I can wait until I have the time and move a motion at that time, but in the spirit of efficiency...and I'm still speaking specifically to a point of order. This committee, I believe, has a responsibility to provide us the resources so that we can do our job as members of the opposition. Without that support, this committee I believe is not doing what a standing committee should do in a democracy that needs to be a shining example around this world.
Because a government has a majority, it doesn't need to give the official opposition and other opposition members no rights in the House. They can do that—they can bully—but because you can do it doesn't mean you should.
I'm hoping that we have support from the Liberal members of this committee and that they would refer this to the House, because it's not the first time. If it was one time, I wouldn't be speaking on this, but there have been multiple times that the minister has refused, and now the parliamentary secretary.... What we asked for, we were not given. We can't do our job because of that.
Good afternoon. I'm pleased to be here with you today to discuss the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (B) and the 2019-20 interim estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
With me are Matt Jones, the assistant deputy minister of the pan-Canadian framework implementation office, and John Moffet, the ADM of environmental protection.
The supplementary estimates (B) include a net reduction of $1.8 million in funding that is seeking parliamentary approval. This is resulting from $1.8 million in transfers between Environment and Climate Change Canada and other government departments. This represents a 0.1% decrease in the authorities to date, bringing the proposed authorities to $1.66 billion.
Our supplementary estimates (B) include three transfers for Environment and Climate Change Canada and other government departments. There is $160,000 from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Parks Canada for the Assembly of First Nations Elders Council. There is $59,500 for the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for improving the capacity of northern communities to predict changing ice conditions. There is $2 million for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to support the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change.
In addition, there is a transfer of $6.8 million from the operating vote 1 to grants and contributions vote 10 included in these estimates. This will allow Environment and Climate Change Canada to realign its funding with emerging priorities. These priorities include $5 million in additional funding for the quick start component of the Canada nature fund and $1.8 million for the indigenous guardians program.
Originally, the department approved to fund a list of proposals for both the quick start component and the indigenous guardians pilot program. Nonetheless, both of these initiatives have also identified a number of eligible proposals that have exceeded existing funding. In order to support these additional proposals that would benefit from immediate funding, Environment and Climate Change Canada has determined that the most effective way to meet this mandate commitment is by mobilizing external stakeholders through the use of grants and contributions. Therefore, Environment and Climate Change Canada proactively reallocated a total of $6.8 million from within existing reference levels to ensure that these additional projects can move forward.
The 2019-20 interim estimates include an overview of spending required for the first three months of the fiscal year as it compares to the 2018-19 main estimates and the estimates to date. Environment and Climate Change Canada is requesting funding of $426.8 million through these interim estimates, which includes $209.3 million in operating expenditures, $20.6 million in capital expenditures and $196.9 million in grants and contributions for April to June 2019 to cover financial requirements during the first three months of the fiscal year until a full supply can be attained through the 2019-20 main estimates.
Funding requested through the 2019-20 interim estimates will allow Environment and Climate Change Canada to provide national leadership for a wide range of environmental issues, including action on clean growth and climate change. It will also allow the department to continue its engagement in activities aimed at preventing and managing pollution, conserving nature and predicting weather and environmental conditions by engaging our strategic partners, including provinces, territories and indigenous peoples.
I hope this summary of our initiatives included in the 2018-19 supplementary estimates and the 2019-20 interim estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada provides this committee with the insight members have been seeking.
Before we go on, we have just heard quite impassioned comments about the need for respect at this table, and I'm just wondering if all the members want to be here to hear the opening statements or if all parties are willing to multi-task and catch the comments not at the table.
Before I go into the next round of witnesses.... I see Mr. Fast has left. I don't know if we're expecting somebody to come in so that the opposition will have their full round of representatives here to be part of this discussion. I'm trying to balance the messages that I've been hearing throughout this meeting so far. If we want to have a respectful discussion, I would ask that everybody sit and that perhaps when our witnesses are speaking we be engaged in the testimony they bring forward.
Now we'll go to the Environmental Assessment Agency.
On a point of order, page 1016 states the following:
When a standing committee examines estimates, it is free to arrange its own proceedings. Ordinarily, committees find it convenient to examine the votes assigned to them in groups....
They often or usually consist of a number of votes under one heading in the estimates, and occasionally both simultaneously. It continues:
Committees generally begin their examination of the estimates by hearing from the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary...for the activities and programs dealt with in the votes, who is usually accompanied by senior departmental officials.
I don't see a heading under supplementary estimates, so I've made an assumption that estimates and supplementary estimates are managed by the same policies.
The direction from this committee was right in order with the guidelines, with the policies of Parliament. That has not happened, Chair, so I'm going to move that—
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
As I was saying, I'm joined by my colleague Christine Loth-Bown, Vice-President of External Relations and Strategic Policy. We're here to discuss the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (B) and the 2019-20 interim estimates for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
The agency's team of highly qualified employees supports the by conducting evidence-based environmental assessments for major projects in a manner that protects the environment, fosters economic growth and jobs, and supports sustainable development. Just as importantly, our environmental assessments also consider input received from the public, indigenous groups and many other stakeholders.
In 2017-18 the agency supported the minister in leading a national review of federal environmental assessment processes. In February 2018 these efforts reached a major milestone with the tabling of Bill in Parliament, which proposes changes to the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, including new rules for the review of major projects and an expanded role for the agency. In this regard, we are providing ongoing advice and support to the parliamentary process as the proposed bill is currently under review by the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
In supplementary estimates (B) for fiscal year 2018-19, the agency requests a single item for an interdepartmental transfer of $100,000 to Environment and Climate Change Canada as part of a portfolio initiative. This contribution is for elders of the Assembly of First Nations to consult broadly with elders across Canada to develop a policy on indigenous knowledge by March of 2020. The agency is contributing to this initiative as part of its policy dialogue funding program to support the participation of indigenous peoples in the development of agency policies and guidance.
Turning to the interim estimates for fiscal year 2019-20, the agency requests $17 million in funding, representing three-twelfths of the agency's anticipated expenditure authority for 2019-20. The funding requested through interim estimates supports the continued delivery of environmental assessments under the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as well as new and expanded activities in three specific areas: impact assessment; partnering with indigenous peoples; and cumulative effects, open science, and evidence.
Under the proposed impact assessment act, the agency will become the lead organization responsible for the federal impact assessment of designated projects. This will include major projects that are currently assessed by the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The agency will conduct assessments within strict legislated timelines. The significant responsibilities and enhanced programs proposed under the legislation include the following: a new early planning phase for project assessments, improved co-operation with other jurisdictions, increased opportunities for public participation and transparency, and supporting indigenous peoples and the public in an expanded role in monitoring impacts during the implementation and operation of approved projects.
The last time the agency appeared in front of the committee, we highlighted the agency's work in pursuing discussions on co-operation agreements with interested provinces in support of the objective of “one project, one assessment”. This work continues, with a majority of provinces and territories having expressed interest to date. Further, the agency is planning to pilot several new elements of the proposed impact assessment act, with willing proponents, such as early planning and an analysis of socio-economic impacts for a project in the early stages of an environmental assessment under the current act.
The agency continues to advance key initiatives that will support the successful implementation of the proposed impact assessment act, including the development of policy and guidance to assist proponents by clarifying key concepts and changes. We continue to engage the multi-interest advisory committee established in August of 2016 by the to obtain advice across various interest groups on key regulatory and policy issues prior to the coming into force of the proposed impact assessment act.
The agency will soon establish, formally, a technical advisory committee on science and knowledge and an indigenous advisory committee, which will provide the agency with valuable expert advice and guidance for the transition to the proposed new impact assessment system.
In terms of partnering with indigenous peoples, as we noted at our last appearance, under the proposed new act, the agency will fulfill the role of Crown consultation coordinator for all designated projects. In this context, the agency will work to ensure effective collaboration and meaningful consultation with indigenous peoples. These goals will be achieved through the provision of increased participant funding for project assessments as well as the launch of a new capacity support program that will improve the preparedness of indigenous groups to participate in assessment processes and their ability to provide technical expertise related to impact assessment. ln turn, this increased capacity is expected to result in strengthened participation in federal assessments, ensuring that indigenous knowledge, laws and culture are considered in impact assessments and influence outcomes. These efforts will support the government's reconciliation commitments.
The agency is currently holding workshops in regions across the country to engage indigenous groups in the development of policies for their participation in and co-operation with the agency on impact assessments, the new capacity support program I just mentioned, and the assessment of impacts on indigenous rights.
The agency has also made advances in support of the government's deliberative approach to cumulative effects. Working with other federal departments, provinces and indigenous groups, the agency will undertake three regional assessments over five years, which will support the management of cumulative effects and provide important information for future project assessments. Work continues on the first of the three regional assessments, which will study the potential impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration east of Newfoundland and Labrador.
ln December, the agency announced the availability of funding through its participant funding program for the participation of the public and indigenous groups in this regional assessment. This initiative is being undertaken in co-operation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and Natural Resources Canada.
Thank you for opportunity to be here today. My colleague and I will be happy to respond to your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members, for the opportunity to join you at this meeting and speak with you today.
I'm Michael Nadler. In my normal role, I'm the vice-president for external relations and visitor experience at Parks Canada. I'm serving presently as the interim chief executive officer of the agency.
Joining me today is Sylvain Michaud, Parks Canada's Chief Financial Officer.
I'd like to begin, if I may, with the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (B) for Parks Canada. These estimates are the last opportunity for the agency to adjust its main estimates for 2018-19.
The agency's submission amounts to an increase in appropriations of $641,000, bringing the agency's total appropriations to $7.19 billion for 2018-19.
Colleagues, Parks Canada is seeking approval for adjustments to its appropriations for the following four items.
The first is $467,000, related to funding for the implementation of the Baffin and Ukkusiksalik national parks Inuit impact and benefit agreements. Previous implementation funding had expired, but renewed funding was approved recently to ensure that Canada's ongoing obligations can continue to be met in these important agreements.
Second is a transfer of $225,000 from the Department of Transport to undertake important climate risk assessment reports and assessments to identify the climate change risks to the Gulf Shore Parkway in Prince Edward Island.
The third is a transfer of $60,000 from Parks Canada to Environment and Climate Change Canada for a project under the stewardship of the Assembly of First Nations Elders Council. The funding will support the development of local and national indigenous knowledge networks for improved nature protection and conservation.
Fourth is a vote transfer of $35 million from the agency's program expenditures vote to the agency's capital vote for its new parks and historic sites account. The purpose of this transfer is the creation, expansion and completion of national parks and national marine conservation areas, such as Bruce Peninsula National Park and Lake Superior National Conservation Marine Area.
In light of these requests for adjustments, I'd like to highlight some of the outstanding work that Parks Canada has accomplished this fiscal year in protecting Canada's natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of these special places, as well as its focus on important relationships with indigenous peoples.
As you're aware, the Government of Canada has committed to conserving 10% of its marine and coastal waters by 2020. On October 30, 2018, an agreement in principle was reached between Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, the QIA, outlining key elements of the future Inuit impact and benefit agreement for a Tallurutiup Imanga national marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound in Nunavut. This will become the largest protected area ever in Canada, at approximately 109,000 square kilometres. We've very proud of this achievement.
We're equally proud of work that we're doing to restore our aging asset base across places throughout the country. Parks Canada's program to invest an unprecedented $3.6 billion in restoring aging assets is now entering its fifth year of implementation and is continuing to improve our infrastructure while supporting local economies and contributing to growth in the tourism sector.
In November, the agency tabled the Gwaii Haanas land-sea-people management plan to Parliament. This relates to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. This plan is the first of its kind and integrates historic and contemporary Haida knowledge. It also considers opportunities for those who depend on Gwaii Haanas for their livelihood. This will further increase appreciation and learning opportunities in Gwaii Haanas for people today and for generations to come.
Finally, I would like to address the Parks Canada Agency's 2019-20 interim estimates, which are represented at approximately $361 million. These estimates represent the agency's spending requirements for the first three months of 2019-20.
Interim estimates support the introduction of an interim supply bill in March, presenting Parliament with the anticipated financial requirements of organizations during the first months of the new fiscal year until full supply can be obtained in June.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, once again, I'd like to thank you for your time today.
We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Mr. Michaud and I are here to do just that, and given our extensive knowledge of the agency's operations, we are well-suited to support the committee in its examination of supplementary estimates (B).
Sylvain and I have a broad knowledge of Parks Canada. We welcome the opportunity to be here and, to be honest, we are very well situated to help the committee in its deliberations today.
I'd like to apologize on behalf of those who are not present for what I consider to be disrespectful treatment of Canada's civil servants. I don't think it's fair to have to sit and wait. Everyone knew full well what the purpose of this meeting was. It turned into something different.
However, I would like to seize the opportunity by starting with some thanks and congratulations. I'll start with Parks Canada. I noted recently, and had a good conversation with your minister around, the Lutsel K'e Dene's approval of the plan to move forward with Thaidene Nene. I had an opportunity to paddle there for a significant period of time, and I did a bit of legal work with them around this particular protected area's initiative.
I want to give a shout out, given that we're in a public setting, and put on the record my congratulations to those parks officials who, as far back as half a century ago, were working on this file, people like Bob Gamble, Tom Kovacs, Pat Thomson and others who came in later on, Murray McComb and Kevin McNamee. My dad, of course, was involved—
Might I start on Thaidene Nene and then...?
With your permission, might I add some names to that list? Steven Nitah, of course, has been a fundamental person in the negotiation of the establishment of that place. Your comment is actually highly relevant to our supplementary estimates, given the transfer of resources to Environment Canada to better integrate traditional indigenous knowledge into conservation activities. I really welcome that observation.
Without the Lutsel K'e Dene and the Northwest Territories government, that protected area would not have been possible. We, too, celebrate the resounding confirmation that the community gave to the establishment of that unique protected area. It truly will be a collaboratively managed space that integrates indigenous traditional knowledge with western science and acts of both conservation and reconciliation. We'd love to host you there, so if ever the committee would like to visit Lutsel K'e Dene, I think they would love to see you as well. It would be a real privilege and pleasure.
You can attest, I'm sure, to the beauty of the East Arm. It's a remarkable space.
With respect to indigenous knowledge and indigenous relationships in impact assessment, as was noted, we are funding, jointly across the portfolio, important work to be done through the Assembly of First Nations with elders to look at how indigenous knowledge is used and treated within assessments and with the other studies and scientific work that each of our organizations conduct.
Also, currently with an assessment, we have great examples of working collaboratively with indigenous communities to assess the impacts on rights that potential projects will have, to work to develop solutions and measures to potentially accommodate those impacts on rights, and to make sure that this is brought to bear in the impact assessment reports that go forward for decisions.
Then, as this committee knows, and has spent considerable time on, there are a number of important components in Bill that would make indigenous knowledge mandatory through assessments, such as the acknowledgement right up front in the legislation of the impacts on rights and, of course, the important changes to the recognition of indigenous jurisdictions in impact assessment.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your presentations and input. Thank you, as well, for being here today.
In supplementary estimates (B) for 2018-19, Environment and Climate Change Canada is seeking an internal reallocation of $6.8 million to support the quick start component of the Canada nature fund and to support the indigenous guardians pilot program.
From which programs is the $6.8 million being reallocated? Did the programs achieve their objectives this fiscal year without the $6.8 million needing to be spent?
With respect to project assessments, we have always been very active in our engagement with indigenous groups. On a project-by-project basis, the agency has a long history of having a participant funding program. We announce grant and contribution funding for indigenous communities to be able to apply to for their active participation in project assessments. That continues. We have many announcements that have come out with various project assessments to provide funding for that.
In addition, my colleague spoke about workshops that we currently have going on across the country. We had an open invitation under this participant funding program, as well, for a policy dialogue forum.
We are hosting workshops across the country to talk about the policy and guidance aspects of the proposed bill. That's an important component to make sure that as we are developing policy, guidance and potential regulations to support the bill, should it be passed, that we've been able to do those in a way that engages the communities that will be affected.
In addition to the discussions and workshops that are being held across the country with indigenous communities, we also hold sessions with industry, environmental organizations. As my colleague noted, we also continue to support a multi-interest advisory committee, which that is made up of membership from the national indigenous organizations, industry associations, and environmental and non-government organizations as well.
I should have known that. I apologize.
Mr. Mike Bossio: That's all right.
Mr. Michael Nadler: I would encourage all of you to read the Gwaii Haanas management plan that was tabled recently in Parliament. Under our legislation under the National Parks Act, these management plans must be tabled in Parliament. That plan really truly is a statement on co-management and collaborative management of both land and water.
If there's one area where Parks Canada is striving to strengthen our work, it's in managing terrestrial spaces and adjacent waters. Gwaii Haanas is an excellent example. Above all, it's an example of collaboration and true co-management of a protected place with indigenous peoples. That management plan is a product of a collaborative government arrangement and reflects the aspirations of the Haida as well as the Government of Canada and all Canadians.
There have been a number of developments recently. Somewhere here I have a bit of an itemized list, but the high points are numerous. I think a lot is happening on green infrastructure and bilateral agreements with provinces on the infrastructure side. When it comes to regulatory developments, there have been a number of draft regulations published that John could tell you more about, including our efforts to accelerate the phase-out of coal-powered power plants. Carbon pricing, of course, is moving forward, as is well known and well documented.
In terms of some of the funding programs, I know our colleagues at NRCan have launched a number of programs and have completed a number of intakes of project proposals, including for communities that are looking to move off diesel generation, which of course, as the committee knows well, is a dirty form of heat and electricity generation as well as an expensive one. There are a number of projects moving forward there, again, including in a number of indigenous communities. The low-carbon economy fund continues to invest in programs and projects with provinces.
We've done a call for proposals and have evaluated proposals related to a sub-stream of the low carbon economy fund that's targeting individual projects. One has been announced. That was the project in downtown Toronto that takes cold water from the bottom of Lake Ontario and uses it to cool office towers. We're expanding that project. That's just one example of many to come, so we can expect some announcements on a number of those in the near future.
We also have another sub-fund of the low-carbon economy fund that targets smaller projects. The view was that we didn't want indigenous communities having to compete with multinational corporations, so we have a big project fund and a smaller one. For that intake, the deadline for proposals is in March. We're expecting a collection of projects then, which we will then evaluate and hopefully move forward with funding. There's a lot more that we could probably talk about, but those are some of the highlights.
John, is there anything you'd like to add on the regulatory side?
I'm going to jump in, Mike.
Looking at the clock, I see that we're going a bit late. We had originally invited our guests to be here from 3:30 to 4:30. I do want to see if our guests will be able to stay a bit longer.
Does anybody have any day care pickups or anything like that you need to deal with?
Okay, what I'd like to do is then move over to the three colleagues who haven't had a chance. They were in a six-minute slot. We're not going to go into the final portion of our meeting, the report review, today. We'll just stay with this. I would like the colleagues on this side to have a bit of time.
Madame Trudel still has more time. If you decide you would like more questions just wave at any point, and we'll inject you into it. We won't go right to the end, but I would like Darren, Joe and Julie to have some time for interaction as well. Then, Madame Trudel, if you have more, just let us know.
Darren, Joe or Julie, do you have anything?
Parks Canada manages a very large asset base. A number of our assets are heritage places, and some of those risk being impacted by climate change. Others include significant transportation infrastructures. Indeed, as the committee is probably aware, we're responsible for a number of provincial numbered highways, as well as elements of the Trans-Canada Highway system.
Transport Canada has a program evaluation of those assets—or their assessments, at least—to assess the possible risks to those important transportation corridors from climate change. We have a number of these highways and are concerned about the risk of climate change to those assets. We'll continue to work with Transport Canada on their assessment.
In terms of our built heritage assets, those are internal risks that Parks Canada must manage, and we do that on our own. A number of our places are being assessed for mitigations that we might implement to protect them from the impacts of climate change.
You're absolutely right, Mr. Fisher, there's an increasing number of those properties that we have to assess right now.
Thanks for your patience, and thanks for being with us today.
I think it was the presentation made by you, Mr. Kerr—thank you so much—that I have a couple of questions on. It says, under the proposed impact assessment act, that the agency will become the lead organization. I think you're going to be doing a number of pilots to see how to get it all started.
Just for my own understanding, how is this pilot also going to benefit the companies that are trying to do some of the development that might require the use of our new legislation? Maybe you could talk to that.
We're currently looking at assessments that are in the current system with particular companies that have approached us to say they would like to do a pilot with us to test some of the ideas laid out in Bill , because they see many benefits in that piece of legislation. These are primarily around the early planning segment, so they can sit down and look at the early planning and at how we can do the tailored impact statement guidelines and look the consultation plans. We've been approached by companies to test those. There are a couple cases that our operations staff are working on with companies to lay that out.
Some of the companies have said that what they find particularly appealing about what's proposed in Bill is that early planning and the ability to scope. There is this certainty of process in terms of the information required, as well as the certainty around whom to consult and engage at the end.
Another aspect of the question, and what Alan talked about in the presentation, is a regional assessment that we are currently conducting off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. We're doing that with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the offshore petroleum board. The objective of this pilot—and we're working with proponents who are doing exploratory drilling offshore—is to look at exploratory wells and do a regional assessment.
It's in that particular regional geography, but it's also specific to a type of activity, which is exploratory drilling. The intent behind that was discussed in a consultation paper we did with respect to the project list on designated physical activities. The day the legislation was tabled, there was also a consultation paper that went out to look at reviewing the regulation on the designation project of activities. What it says in that paper is that, if the regional assessment is to be successful, there would be an opportunity to potentially exempt those activities from a further impact assessment.
On the one hand, you're doing a regional assessment to assure Canadians that the activity has been assessed, but because exploratory drilling has a very quick turnaround time, you're not asking a proponent to do a lengthy process for a very short activity. You're getting the environmental assurance, but doing it more expeditiously.
I'll take that one as well.
You raised the point of collaborative policy development. We attempt to do collaborative policy development across the board, but in particular in areas like indigenous knowledge, it's really important that it is indigenous community members who are leading our perspective on how we treat indigenous knowledge.
In this particular case, it is the elders of the Assembly of First Nations who are hosting sessions across the country to talk to other elders about indigenous knowledge, how it should be defined, how it should be treated, and how it should be used. They will then provide a report back to us collectively for us to use in the work we do.
In the case of the Environmental Assessment Agency, we need to be putting out a policy framework and guidance on how indigenous knowledge is used in impact assessments. This will be an extremely important tool for us to bring into that policy work.
At the same time, we also have colleagues who are hosting workshops across the country to talk about our indigenous knowledge policy as well. It's a bit of a twofold thing, because the AFN work is specifically directed towards elders, but we also wanted the workshops across the country to speak to communities and other organizations across indigenous knowledge. We're doing both and we'll take that feedback and then design a policy in a collaborative way.
I can give you a brief update, but I'll start with the minister's response, which was that the committee identified a number of directional improvements that could be made to the implementation of the act and the department is committed to undertaking as many of those as possible. A lot of that work is under way and will be reflected in the next CEPA annual report.
Then there are some areas the committee recommended that would necessitate actual amendments to the statute. The government committed to consider those recommendations and to introduce amendments to the act in the next government, so after the election. In the interim, the government also committed to continue to engage with stakeholders to discuss the full set of potential amendments, including those that were recommended by the committee, with particular emphasis on three sets of amendments.
One set is around the so-called chemicals management plan, which really encompasses a lot of the environmental protection authorities in the act, the science and regulatory authorities. We've had extensive engagement with stakeholders for the past year on that, which will continue for at least another year on how that program could be improved and reoriented in the future.
The second area is the regulatory gap on first nation reserves. We have initiated consultations with first nations, in conjunction with CIRNA, because we see this as a subset of a broader governance issue on reserves. Again, the goal will be to conduct those consultations and then use those to inform any new government, post-fall 2019, of what the options are to address that issue.
The third very specific issue that the minister committed us to address is to do some more thinking and consultation, both with external stakeholders and with the Department of Justice, around substantive environmental rights. Those discussions are under way.