Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Before we get to the business of the day, before we get down to work, I would like to pass this along to the public as well as all of our committee members here. It's something tragic that happened recently.
Christian Brun has been a witness here for years. He's the director general of the Maritime Fishermen's Union and the president of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvester's Federation. Those are just two of his titles. He has passed away.
On behalf of the committee, we would like to send out condolences to his family. To pay our respects—I don't know if this has been done before—given his involvement in this industry and the times that he's appeared in front of us, I would like to ask everyone here in the room for a moment of silence for Mr. Brun.
[A moment of silence observed]
Thank you, everybody, for that.
There is one item that we have to address. In talking to my colleagues, I realize that there's a problem that has come up.
My apologies to the witnesses. We'll be there in just a few moments.
We have received hundreds of submissions. As you know, input to this study was through our website, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The deadline passed November 30 and we received hundreds. The process to have these submissions translated has now come to our attention. Just to give you an idea, well over 90% of the submissions were in one language, either French or in English, not bilingual. Therefore, as the rules dictate, in order for me to distribute them, they have to be in both official languages.
Because of the number of submissions we have received, it's going to take a lot of time. As you know, next week we're in camera, and we're coming with suggestions for recommendations to go into this report. I've been advised that a lot of them will not be ready in both official languages. As you know, if we are to distribute in one language only, we have to receive the unanimous consent of the committee to do this.
Are there any questions on this before we go to a unanimous consent vote?
We have been assured that eventually they will be translated and distributed to the committee; it just won't be any time soon. Therefore, I'm asking the committee for unanimous consent to distribute them to the committee in one language only, as is.
That's a request, not a motion, obviously.
Is there any further comment on that? Seeing none, I will go to our study. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), a study of the review of changes to the Fisheries Act, we want to welcome our guests here today, who are joining us in person as well as through video conference.
From the Canadian Hydropower Association, we have Dan Gibson, who is a senior environmental specialist, together with Jacob Irving, who's the president. From the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, we have Chris Bloomer, president and chief executive officer, who will be joining us by video conference from Calgary. From the Canadian Electricity Association, we have Francis Bradley, COO. We also have Jay Walmsley, senior environment specialist, aquatic, Nova Scotia Power. From the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance, we have Matt Sullivan, the executive director. From the Forest Products Association of Canada, we have Kate Lindsay, director, environmental regulations and conservation biology.
We will start with the Canadian Hydropower Association.
Mr. Irving, please proceed for 10 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairmen, and members of the committee.
I'm Jacob Irving and I'm the the president of the Canadian Hydropower Association. Our membership comprises the major hydro power generators in Canada and the industries that support them.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present today. With your permission I'll take some time to outline the importance of hydro power in Canada. My colleague, Dan Gibson, will then explain why the Fisheries Act is so important to our industry and provide some specific thoughts regarding this important legislative review.
The Canadian hydro power industry is world class. Not only are we the largest renewable energy producer in Canada, we are also the single largest source of electricity. Over 60% of the country's electricity comes from hydro power and because of hydro power Canada has one of the cleanest and most renewable electricity systems on the planet. Canada is the third largest hydro power producer in the world. This is impressive when you consider that number one is China with 1.3 billion people and number two is Brazil with 210 million people. Canada is third with only 36 million people. When it comes to hydro power Canada clearly boxes well above its weight class. Canada's installed hydro power capacity is over 78,000 megawatts, which is impressive. Even more impressive is our underdeveloped potential of 160,000 megawatts, more than double our current installed capacity.
Hydro power produces zero air pollution and it is as close to zero greenhouse gas emissions as you can get. Hydro power is essential in the fight against climate change and climate change poses a threat to fisheries in Canada and around the world. In fact, just last month Environment Canada released Canada's mid-century, long-term, low greenhouse gas development strategy during recent climate negotiations in Marrakesh. This document reviewed seven different independent studies that each described how Canada could reach its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. The one common thread throughout all the studies was the unanimous call for a major increase in Canadian hydro power generation.
While it offers significant environmental benefits the industry recognizes that hydro power facilities impact the natural environment. This is why we are subject to comprehensive regulation at both the federal and provincial levels. Our members recognize that they have a responsibility to ensure their activities do not undermine the natural environment. That environment is particularly important when fisheries are involved, whether they are aboriginal, commercial, or recreational. Fisheries, like the hydro power industry, rely on healthy aquatic systems.
We continue to work collaboratively with indigenous peoples, stakeholders, regulators, and policy-makers. We appreciate the opportunity to address this committee in the same spirit.
At this point, I'd like to invite the chair of our fisheries working group, Mr. Dan Gibson, to present some highlights from our written submission.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and committee members.
As Mr. Irving has said, it is important that the public trusts the effectiveness of the processes that safeguard Canadian fisheries. With regard to this, we welcome the opportunity to put our views before the committee today.
You will see in our written submission that, at this time, we are not persuaded that the Fisheries Act needs substantial redrafting. Protections, however, can be strengthened most effectively through policy and guidance measures.
The amendments in 2012 did not, we believe, weaken its effectiveness, as it still provides a sound framework for fisheries protection. In fact, from our perspective, some of the amendments actually strengthened the legislation. One example is the increased authority for enforcement and penalties. The amendments also made explicit, in the new section 6, the factors that must be taken into account in ministerial decision-making.
To this end, some of the loss of public confidence in the Fisheries Act might be traced to the manner in which the amendments were made and to a misunderstanding of the act's original purpose.
With the precedent established through the Supreme Court of Canada rulings, we believe that the act is intended to manage Canadian fisheries, not simply individual fish. This is not a concept that was introduced in 2012. There are decades of jurisprudence stating that this was the legislation's original and continuing purpose. However, we do think that protection regimes can be improved.
We believe that Parliament, in considering changes, should be guided by the principles of good regulatory policy and practice that are important for our industry: clarity, consistency, efficiency, and transparency.
With regard to clarity and serious harm, perhaps the most controversial change to the act in 2012 was the merging of two previous elements of the old act. Sections 35 and 32 were merged into what we now know as section 35, which addresses both harm to fish and the alteration of fish habitat. The critical element of this section prohibits serious harm to fish, which is defined as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”.
In our submission, we suggest a more precise definition of “serious harm” that focuses attention on harm or habitat alteration that will have an impact on fish populations at large. Without that clarity, the existing definition could be interpreted to include the incidental loss of an individual fish with no material impact on the fishery at large. Similarly, when it comes to habitat, without clarity on the serious harm to fish, we believe that the existing definition could also be interpreted to include elements of fish habitat disturbance that in no way result in material impacts to fish populations.
For these reasons, clarification of the meaning of serious harm would guide our industry in making decisions, would strengthen industry's confidence in the regulatory regime in Canada, and would make efficient use of regulatory resources within the various departments, focusing them on the true threats to Canadian fisheries.
With regard to existing facilities and consistency, given hydro power's long history in Canada, the industry is concerned about how the act will deal with existing facilities moving forward. As you may know, there are over 400 existing hydroelectric facilities in our country. Most were approved and constructed before the current provisions of the Fisheries Act in the mid-1970s.
We believe that it would be inappropriate, therefore, to broadly apply the act retrospectively. However, in certain situations where ongoing operations of an existing facility are causing serious harm to fisheries, we would certainly agree that the act should address these in a focused manner.
We would also expect that significant changes or retrofits to our existing facilities would be encapsulated in the current act moving forward. Otherwise, where there are stable fisheries around existing facilities, retrospective application of the Fisheries Act serves no useful purpose from a regulatory perspective. We hope and we trust that policy documents would reflect that clearly.
On efficiencies and fisheries management objectives, which was a new element to section 6, among the factors that the minister now takes into account are fisheries management objectives. These can be very useful to our industry when designing facilities and operations to avoid unwanted impacts to fisheries. Unfortunately, in many parts of our country, FMOs are not clearly articulated and must be developed by the relevant authorities. Industry, the fisheries, and other stakeholders would like to see these developed throughout Canada in a timely manner.
On resourcing, and further on efficiencies, our greatest success in working with regulators before and since 2012 has been achieved through co-operation. Much more can be achieved when governments and industry experts coordinate their efforts in finding solutions, which has been our experience since 2012 in the explicit language around building stronger partnerships with industry.
To this end, however, our industry believes that the most important reason the public may have lost some of their faith and trust in the fisheries regulations is perhaps due to some of the departmental reductions that have occurred. Our members have found that the experts with whom they had once worked from Newfoundland all the way to B.C. have experienced some loss on the ground with these experts. They have either moved on or are simply no longer with the department. This makes for less understanding and less strength in our relationships with our regulators. We believe the government should give serious consideration to restoring some of these lost resources with the objective of re-establishing the productive working arrangements that have existed.
On offsetting and banking, and, again, efficiency, regulator guidance for offsetting of impacts by investments in fish productivity in other sites needs to be developed further. This practice, broadly understood as habitat banking, has tremendous potential for our industry. It allows flexibility for both industry and regulators to accommodate industrial activity, while maintaining healthy fisheries. We have elaborated on this in detail in our submission, and we believe it has been a forthcoming benefit to the 2012 amendments.
In closing, I've only really been able to touch on some of the elements that we've included in our submission, but I will reiterate several key points that will perhaps lead to discussion and questions. First, we believe habitat protection is still a fundamental element to the 2012 amendments. Second, a stable regulatory regime that is clear, predictable, transparent, and efficient best serves fisheries and the hydro power industry in this country.
Further, hydro power projects are capital intensive and they last a long time. We must be able to make investment decisions with confidence within a stable regulatory regime. There are several key critical concepts in the existing act that need to be clarified, most importantly, serious harm to fish. We believe this can be addressed through policy. However, if Parliament determines that a legislative adjustment is a better way to proceed, it can be accomplished through a simple amendment that we have included in our submission.
Further, I would like to emphasize that the ultimate success of the fisheries regulatory regime rests upon the people who administer it. To that point, we would love to see successful, qualified, skilled professionals in the department to work with in re-establishing those relationships. Finally, as my colleague Jacob has mentioned, hydro power is one of Canada's most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change. We need regulations that enable its development while ensuring Canadian fisheries are protected.
Thank you very much. I welcome your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon. As mentioned, my name is Chris Bloomer. I am president and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. We represent 12 major transmission pipeline companies, operating 119,000 kilometres of pipelines and transporting 97% of Canada's crude oil and natural gas production.
CEPA is pleased to participate in this review of the Fisheries Act. It's through periodic review of legislation and regulatory processes that we ensure that the goals of policy and legislation are met. We are participating in all the related federal reviews and consultations, including NEB modernizations, CEAA 2012, and the Navigation Protection Act.
Before I get into specific comments, I would like to comment on what CEPA believes are the fundamental principles of effective regulation that apply equally to all the reviews. The most effective regulatory framework for all stakeholders is one that is clear, efficient, and comprehensive. In particular, the process should be science- and fact-based, conducted by the best-placed regulator, avoid duplication, outline clear accountabilities, contain transparent rules and processes, allow for meaningful participation, and adhere to the need for timeliness. We support any efforts that the government makes to achieve these outcomes.
With respect to the Fisheries Act, I'll provide some comments in three specific areas: first, a brief overview of the methods used for installing pipelines across water bodies; second, the impact of the changes made to the act in 2012; and finally, the importance of maintaining a single best-placed regulator, the National Energy Board.
CEPA's members reviewed their practices both before and after the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act. They examined the way data was collected and analyzed, and the mitigation methods and best practices that were already in place. This process revealed that the thousands of watercourse crossings our members completed followed well-established, best-practice construction methods.
There are two main construction practices, excavating a trench or using trenchless methods. When practical pipeline companies use a trenchless method, which involves horizontal drilling or microtunnelling beneath the water, this method does not require any direct excavation of banks or bed of water body, and can be used as long as the banks and surrounding lands are stable. The trenchless method minimizes or eliminates altogether any impacts to the water body and serious harm to fish and fish habitat. In certain circumstances where site-specific geotechnical conditions may prohibit the use of trenchless crossings, a trench through the watercourse is required and is constructed so as to minimize impact.
The pipeline industry has conducted hundreds of EAs and has prepared as many permit applications. It has therefore developed best practices and a deep understanding of the potential environmental effects of watercourse crossings and their impacts. We have experience and confidence in the effectiveness of the construction and mitigation practices for watercourse crossings.
This brings me to our second point, the impact of the changes made to the act in 2012. Through the review of construction methods and industry best practices, our members confirm that these methods continue to be as effective in protecting fish and fish habitat as they were prior to the 2012 changes. The concerns expressed by various groups regarding 2012 changes to the act tend to focus on the fact that fewer authorizations are required under the revised legislation. While fewer authorizations are required, the effort that the pipeline companies must invest to determine whether to apply for an authorization under the Fisheries Act has not changed. This is because the act still requires the protection of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries.
The practical measures that pipeline companies used before the 2012 definition changes under the act are the very same measures that have continued to be used after 2012 to avoid serious harm to fish. The changes in 2012 also allowed for project proponents to engage a qualified environmental professional to prepare a self-assessment for a project and identify appropriate mitigation methods to address any potential impacts. This has been a positive change, because it has allowed professionals with knowledge and expertise of aquatic habitat, pipeline construction, and operations to apply best practices to meet regulatory requirements.
To build on this positive change, CEPA believes this review of the act provides an opportunity to introduce revised DFO-issued operational statements that existed under the previous act. These operational statements provided valuable guidance to project proponents.
In essence, nothing has changed from the practical perspective for the pipeline industry, and the CEPA supports a review of the act that is focused on the enhancing the actual protection of fish and fish habitat rather than the number of authorizations.
The last point I would like to make relates to the role of the NEB and the Fisheries Act authorizations. In 2013, DFO and the NEB signed a memorandum of understanding that gave the NEB responsibility for reviewing applications under the fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.
Under the MOU, the NEB is responsible for assessing the potential impacts of pipeline projects to fish and fish habitat and determining whether mitigation strategies are needed to reduce or prevent those impacts. If the NEB determines that a project can result in serious harm to fish, it will inform the DFO. The DFO will then review the project and determine whether an authorization is required. However, if the NEB determines the project will not result in serious harm to fish, the project applicant does not have to make a separate submission to DFO for the review.
The NEB's assessment of the impacts to fish and fish habitat takes place during its comprehensive review of pipeline applications, which avoids duplication and has proven to be effective and efficient. The NEB assessment considers whether the proponent plans to follow standard improved mitigation methods that are specific to pipelines. This is helpful because, as a best-placed regulator, it applies its unique knowledge of the history and success of these mitigation methods and uses this information to determine whether or not the project is likely to cause adverse effects.
The MOU gives the NEB the power to monitor a project to ensure it complies with the conditions of the Fisheries Act permit after it has been issued. This complements the NEB's life-cycle oversight of pipelines, from design to abandonment. Essentially, the process triggered by the MOU avoids having two departments perform the same assessment.
We don't believe that the delegation to the NEB has resulted in loss of protection or weakened the protection of fish or fish habitat associated with pipeline projects. In fact, it created a more efficient permitting process that resulted in better outcomes by reinforcing accountability with a single regulator. An integrated approach, including the initial assessment of harm to fish or fish habitat, takes into account the full range of safety and environmental concerns and allows both industry and the regulator to work together to more effectively achieve better outcomes.
To this end, CEPA recommends that the current MOU between the NEB and DFO be maintained. Any changes that are made to the act should be focused on making improvements that ensure the continued protection of fish and habitat related to fisheries. This could include reissuing guidance materials to be used in the assessment of work in or near watercourses.
CEPA recognizes that having our lakes and river beds protected is important to Canadians, including pipeline operators. When pipelines cross water bodies, industry takes care to protect the area during the entire life cycle of a pipeline.
Thank you for this opportunity. I look forward to your questions.
Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, thank you for inviting the Canadian Electricity Association to appear here this afternoon and to take part in your review of the Fisheries Act.
I'm very pleased to represent the Canadian Electricity Association, along with a colleague, Dr. Jay Walmsley, who is a senior environmental scientist with Nova Scotia Power.
Together we're going to provide you with the electricity sector's perspective as it relates to the Fisheries Act, but first a few words about the association.
CEA is the national voice and forum for the electricity sector across Canada, and this year we're celebrating our 125th anniversary. Our membership comprises 37 generation, transmission, and distribution companies from across Canada. Our members provide the electricity service to customers in all of your ridings. Our membership also includes nearly 80 manufacturers, technology companies, and consulting firms, representing the full spectrum of the electricity value chain.
Since 2009, the association has provided national direction on industry sustainability efforts through our sustainable electricity program, which is a triple bottom-line program focused on economic, social, and environmental performance consistent with national and international principles of corporate sustainability.
Electricity is, in a word, indispensable. It's indispensable to the quality of life of Canadians and to the competitiveness of our economy. In fact, in 2015, the electricity sector contributed $30 billion to Canada's GDP, making it a significant contributor to the Canadian economy.
In addition, over 80% of electricity generation in Canada has no greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the cleanest in the world, and it's with pride that I tell you that no other Canadian sector has reduced its carbon footprint to the extent that our sector has. Since 2005, this sector has reduced GHG emissions by 30%, and it's expected to decrease significantly more by 2030, through more efficient technologies and increased investments in renewable power.
Federal environmental legislation, like the Fisheries Act, is critical in this regard. The electricity sector is committed to protecting and conserving our natural resources and natural heritage for future generations. CEA and its members are supportive of the government's desire to review the act and incorporate modern safeguards into its implementation.
We recognize that the changes made previously to the act, while generally positive for our sector, might have resulted in a perception of lost protections, but for the electricity sector, the act continues to provide the same level of protection as before 2012, and in some cases has strengthened protection. Examples include strengthened requirements around the industry's duty to self-report serious harm to fish, the duty to take corrective measures to prevent or remedy adverse effects, and increased penalties and enforcement.
However, the act has been significantly constrained through the lack of adequate policy and definitions, and a reduction of staff at DFO regional offices. In this respect, we have 10 recommendations we would like to put forward for the committee's consideration, for both changing the act and enhancing public trust. You'll find those in the brief we provided to the committee.
I'm going to ask my colleague, Dr. Jay Walmsley, to speak to those recommendations.
In the interest of time I will provide a quick overview of our recommendations. Additional details can be found in the CEA's written submission.
I will start with the three recommendations for amending the act itself. Firstly, we believe that the Fisheries Act requires a clear statement of its purpose and the principles that guide its application. The purpose of the Fisheries Act should be to provide for the sustainability of Canada's marine and inland fisheries by ensuring that environmental, economic, and social considerations, including the impact on other water resource uses, are systematically taken into account in the management of fisheries, and the conservation of fish and fish habitat. The underlying principles should be ecosystem-based management and sustainable development.
Secondly, the definition of “serious harm” needs refinement. The definition of “serious harm” should focus on the sustainability of fisheries by protecting fish populations or stocks, and not individual fish, and it needs to still cater for both harvest fish and species at risk. We also believe the act would benefit from a definition of what constitutes the sustainability of a fishery.
Thirdly, there is a need for the act to make provision for the long-term authorization of facilities. The act currently does not specify a time limit nor expiry of Fisheries Act authorizations and as such leaves this to the discretion of the minister. In addition, there is no process in the act through regulation or in policy to formally amend or extend Fisheries Act authorizations. This creates uncertainty for the electricity sector where many activities and ongoing operations are long term.
The association also believes that there is a need and an opportunity for the federal government to enhance public trust in the act, mainly through the implementation of modern safeguards. We would like to offer the following seven recommendations.
One, we would like to see an increase in staffing and funding to the DFO fisheries protection program. This would ensure that staff are active in the field and understand the activities and operations that they are required to authorize.
Two, we believe that there should be more focus placed on supporting and encouraging partnerships and stewardship activities, including broad area planning initiatives to protect and restore fish habitat.
Three, there is a need for fisheries management objectives to be documented up front as part of the initial review process. This will assist in determining whether or not there is a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery that requires protection and what is required to ensure its ongoing sustainability.
Four, with regard to offsetting harm, we would like to see more innovative and modern approaches to offsetting residual project impacts. Some of the approaches that could be considered include conservation agreements, correction of legacy issues, and third-party offset habitat banks.
Five, a public authorization registry of Fisheries Act authorizations should be developed to increase transparency and accountability in the authorization process.
Six, DFO should consider developing a risk-management approach to authorization. This could take into consideration established fisheries management objectives, mitigation of adverse impacts, significance of effects, and the ongoing sustainability of fisheries. A risk-based approach could also be used for existing facilities that predate the act.
Finally, the federal government could consider incorporating approaches by reference into the act. A good example of this is the incorporation of class authorizations for routine operation and maintenance.
This concludes our recommendations. I will now hand back to Francis.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, committee.
As mentioned, my name is Matt Sullivan, and I'm the executive director of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance. Our organization is a non-profit association that represents the aquaculture industries on P.E.I., the primary industries being the mussel sector, cultured oysters, and a smaller finfish industry.
I'm just going to give a brief overview of the three sectors and what they mean for P.E.I. and talk a little bit about the environmental stewardship that the industry leads. I'll end with a few thoughts our industry has on the Fisheries Act.
I'll start with the mussel industry. It's a very important industry for Prince Edward Island. It creates a lot of employment and economic generation in the rural areas of P.E.I. Mussels are farmed in the waters of P.E.I. It takes one to two years to grow the mussels to market size. All the seeds are collected naturally in the water; it's very much a natural process. Mussels are harvested all year round. Even when we have ice, they go out on four-wheelers and whatnot, so for 52 weeks of the year we are harvesting mussels on P.E.I.
The industry is moving a bit towards a certified organic product. The fundamental change, though, is.... They are organic to begin with. Mussels eat phytoplankton, and the industry is very cautious in how it treats the environment they are in. It is going towards this, but it's really just record-keeping and costs. The mussels process is pretty much organic to begin with.
Mussel production is year round, as I mentioned, and employs about 1,500 people in P.E.I., which in a small province of 140,000 is pretty significant, especially in the rural areas.
I'll talk for just a minute about the oyster industry. The oyster industry is an important industry in P.E.I. It's a growing sector. The demand for oysters globally is huge, so we're just trying to keep up with demand. There are two methods by which oysters are grown. There is bottom culture, which is spreading seed on the bottom of the lease and then harvesting them several years afterwards. The amount of time it takes depends on what bay they are in, but it could be from five to seven years.
The more modern technique for growing oysters is in suspended bags and cages, where they are closer to the phytoplankton in the water, which is near the surface. That shaves off the length of time needed to grow the product, and it's a higher-quality product as well.
There are about 15 oyster processors on P.E.I. and there are several hundred oyster growers. Again, it's a growing market. There are a lot of young people getting into that business too. It's not just in P.E.I. that it's growing. It's an opportunity for all of Canada. Basically all the Maritime provinces have very strong growth plans for oyster production.
Just as a couple of notes on the finfish sectors in P.E.I., we really don't have adequate water depth for cage culture, so all of our finfish is land-based. We have a handful of companies. They're mainly hatcheries where they grow the eggs, and they'll do the grow out and later production in other provinces in Canada.
I want to talk a little bit about the environmental responsibility that the industry leads. The P.E.I. aquaculture industry is very innovative and recognizes that it will have better businesses by treating the environment well, because it is essentially reliant on the environment to feed its shellfish so that they grow.
The aquaculture alliance has developed a few key documents that help to lead the industry on the environmental responsibility side of things. First of all, we have shellfish aquaculture industry environmental policy that states the industry's position on sustainable management, water quality, ecosystems, and waste management, among other things. We also have the shellfish aquaculture environmental code of practice, referred to as SAECOP. This really outlines the best practices as to how to ensure environmental responsibility while also having maximum product quality. This industry is committed to managing aquaculture operations in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The commitment is really demonstrated through those initiatives I just mentioned.
I'd also like to add that our organization has a full-time biologist on staff. He's our research and development coordinator. This is key for the industry in that, if there are any challenges or whatnot with the environment, our R and D coordinator is the lead on that, leading any science projects and whatnot. We collaborate with government, with academia, with the industry, and other partners to be the lead on this research.
I have a couple of comments to make on the Fisheries Act, and how it affects the aquacultural industry. I've only been in my role for about a year and a half, so I wasn't in place before the changes to section 35 took place in 2012. But in speaking to others involved in the industry, it was found that the changes that were made were positive ones that had good outcomes for the aquaculture industry. An example of what was felt to be a positive outcome is that there's a more streamlined approach to proving low-risk projects, such as, say, oyster aquaculture leases, which is deemed a low-risk activity. It simply means there are less challenges and fewer time delays in trying to move things forward.
From the perspective of aquaculture stakeholders, it's strongly felt that we have made progress since 2012. We'd be reluctant to work backwards and become more restrictive in terms of processes, where, as mentioned, shellfish aquaculture is fundamentally a low risk to habitat and the environment to begin with.
I would also like to share one thing. From the aquaculture side of things, we're dealing with the Fisheries Act. I'm on the board of directors for CAIA, which is the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance. They've been advocating for many years for the development of an aquaculture act. I just want to share a bit of a good news story on P.E.I., in that we have been able to collaborate with the provincial government and DFO to work through some of the challenges in lieu of an aquaculture act. We have developed a committee, which has several of my board members and me on it, and the provincial department of fisheries and DFO, to talk about interim measures to address some of the regulatory challenges of the oyster aquaculture industry.
Basically, we've developed a system where growers have an option to apply for an annual introductions and transfers permit, or licence, that will give them permission to conduct off-lease maintenance activities and lease-to-lease transfers. This licence will reduce the current administrative burden on the government side and allow industry to work in a way that makes sense and whatnot. When I say that, it's a great collaboration that we've done on P.E.I. to help the industry move forward, basically in the absence of an aquaculture act.
I want to close by saying that the P.E.I. aquaculture industry recognizes the interdependency between a vibrant, sustainable shellfish aquaculture industry and the health of the marine environment. The industry believes that shellfish aquaculture can be undertaken in harmony with the environment, and that the sustainable use of the marine environment is a shared responsibility requiring a climate of co-operation among all resource users and regulatory authorities.
: Bonjour à tous
. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our perspective as you conduct a study on the review of the federal Fisheries Act.
I am here today representing the Forest Products Association of Canada, or FPAC, which is the voice of Canada's wood, pulp, and paper producers nationally.
Forest product companies employ more than 230,000 Canadians in 200 rural communities from coast to coast. FPAC members sustainably manage approximately 90 million hectares of land in Canada. That's an area approximately twice the size of Sweden, or two and a half times the size of Germany.
Our member companies are responsible for 66% of certified forest lands in Canada. Our members manage forests in a manner that supports economic, environmental, and social sustainability, and we work closely with indigenous communities from coast to coast. Repeated surveys have shown that Canada's forest sector has the best environmental record in the world. In short, we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.
I would like to highlight a number of mechanisms that could be used as modern safeguards for protecting fish and fish habitat in Canada, and these are relevant to the forest sector. These include the existing provincial regulatory context we operate under, forest certification, and the former DFO operational statements.
I will first expand on the provincial regulatory context for forestry activities.
The exact language and regulations within each province differ slightly, but consistently the forest sector develops long-term forest management plans that include many habitat and biodiversity objectives. We utilize stakeholder input and science-based approaches. Forest management plans are approved by the provincial governments, and companies employ both adaptive management and ecosystem-based management approaches.
Components of sustainable forest management also benefit and contribute to ecosystem services such as biodiversity more broadly, but also the health of fisheries, be they commercial, recreational, or aboriginal.
The forest sector has implemented best management practices, or BMPs, that take into account regionally appropriate science-based approaches for maintaining fish habitat. Often these have been developed with regional DFO staff, provincial governments, and internal forest company biologists and ecologists over the past decades. These forest management plans can refer to regionally relevant codes of practice such as the Foothills Stream Crossing Partnership in Alberta.
The second mechanism I'll speak to is third-party audited forest certification standards. These are widely implemented in Canada. As a requirement of FPAC membership, beginning in 2001, companies committed to certifying their forestry operations under one of three certification standards relevant in North America: the Canadian Standards Association, or CSA; the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or SFI; and the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC. Canada is a world leader in this area with 43% of the total certified forests in the world.
One of the overarching and relevant requirements of certification is the requirement to conserve biological diversity, or biodiversity. Although the exact language differs among the three standards, there is a fundamental consistency in maintaining naturally occurring ecosystems and habitat for species at risk, as well as habitat with high conservation value. This is built into current forest management.
Additional relevant requirements within the certification standards speak to the protection of riparian areas, which are the areas adjacent to permanent waterways; the protection and maintenance of sites that are biologically or culturally significant; the use of ecosystem-based management approaches; and the development of long-term research and monitoring programs focused on biodiversity.
The last mechanism I would like to discuss is the DFO operational statements, which were also mentioned by Mr. Bloomer earlier.
FPAC was a participant and lead organization in the national resource industry association partnership with DFO during the years 2005 to 2008. This is when parties came together to develop and test operational statements.
The operational statements were an effective and efficient set of guidelines, as well as a notification and tracking system. They outlined science-based timing windows and appropriate mitigation measures for proponents to undertake low-risk activities, both providing outcome-based objectives for avoiding or mitigating any impacts to fish and fish habitat, but also allowing DFO staff to focus on more time-intensive reviews on activities that were deemed higher risk to fish and fish habitat.
The current fisheries protection program at DFO no longer uses the operational statements. FPAC would like to encourage the department to revisit the progress made in developing and implementing guidance for conducting low-risk activities. Forest company staff biologists as well as contractors found the operational statements very useful in providing clear guidance for and explanation of the types of activities, mitigation measures, and timing windows. They were regionally appropriate as well.
In particular, we are aware that DFO has seen a three-quarter reduction of offices with habitat management staff and an overall reduction in regional staff. This is why we encourage DFO to explore existing mechanisms that are robust and implemented widely across the sector to help achieve modern safeguards, but in a streamlined fashion and with high implementation viability.
I would also like to quickly point out elements of the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act that we would like to be considered for being maintained, moving forward. These include equivalency of regulatory regimes that are deemed to meet or beat provisions under the federal Fisheries Act—this allows for a one-window approach in jurisdictions and has the potential to reduce regulatory duplication—secondly, the ability to recognize externally developed standards, as appropriate, to guide activities in and near water; and lastly, enhanced partnership opportunities to ensure that agencies and organizations that are best placed to provide fisheries protection provisions are able to do so.
In summary, we encourage the committee and the to consider the capacity of DFO in implementing enforcement provisions and regulations as you consider potential changes. We caution against adding further reporting or administrative requirements for proponents without adequate DFO staff to review and monitor for broader, cumulative effects.
In the case of forestry, we see an opportunity to first look to existing mechanisms, as I've outlined, to act as modern safeguards, and then to potential codes of practice or such guidance documents as the operational statements, which could be utilized in a streamlined fashion without adding regulatory duplication.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide feedback on this important topic. I would welcome your questions. Merci beaucoup.
I would say it's less so, specific to the Fisheries Act, but very broadly in terms of our forest management plans. When we undertake creating a forest management plan, local communities, indigenous and non-indigenous, as well as local stakeholders are part of that process.
It's actually largely run through our certification standards. Each of those certification standards undergo a process that stakeholders and indigenous groups feed into and review. Then, depending on the certification standard.... For example, in FSC, it's actually more of the concept of FPIC, so indigenous organizations need to essentially consent or approve the forest management plan. In other standards, it's more along the lines of, I guess, reflecting Canadian law currently on accommodating interests.
In some instances, the broad partnerships that we'd like to see are something that some of the other folks have mentioned in some of the offsetting, but with a rather more holistic, community approach. If there is a particular waterway or watershed that we're working within, we see benefit in engaging with all of the interests within the watershed.
For instance, in Cowichan, on the west coast of Canada, there's a watershed board. We take part as an industry association or as an industry component in that group. Cowichan Tribes is at the table. We look at where there's a need, and we focus stewardship activity where we would provide the benefit for the fish, which is important then to the communities that rely on them.
Yes, I think streamlined is the correct way to characterize it. With respect to what the pipeline industry does and how it responds to protecting fish habitat and so on, we would say, as I said in our statement, that we reviewed this and there is no change in terms of how we operate and what we do with respect to this fish habitat issue.
What has changed, though, relates to timelines and projects, and it's an important change. The previous process would come into play near the end of project evaluations and so on. It became very cumbersome and very time consuming to try to get the authorizations from DFO. This dragged out the timing of projects. Now it's identified up front and dealt over, if necessary, to the DFO for a review. If it's necessary, then we'll do a review and follow practice.
From the pipeline perspective, there is really no change in terms of how we approach, through best practices, dealing with the fisheries habitat issue. It has streamlined by putting this aspect of a project up front, rather than having it at the back end and being dragged out over a long period of time.
I would say that, from an efficiency perspective, there has been a very strong improvement. From a protection perspective, there is no impact in terms of how we deal with things, even over the life cycle of a pipeline.
I could answer on behalf of the hydro-power industry.
I'll probably hearken back to what I was saying in the opening comments. The government's mid-century review of its climate strategy did a survey of seven prominent external studies talking about what needs to be done in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The one common element throughout all those studies was a call for more hydro-power generation. Precisely why is that, on a full life-cycle analysis, hydro power does have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any sort of generation. That includes methane emissions, as mentioned, as well as emissions again, in the full life cycle, from concrete, and so on.
Hydro power is something that already keeps Canada's emissions low, makes us have one of the cleanest, most renewable electricity systems in the world, and it's an area where we're able to grow and where we're able to back out some of the more emitting generation that still exists throughout Canada and replace it with hydro power.
It's also important to mention that hydro is an enabler of the other forms of renewable electricity. If you're interested in, say, solar power, wind power, or marine tidal kinetic, the one issue for all those different forms is the variability of their generation. Sometimes their ability to generate doesn't always match the load demand.