Welcome, everybody, to the beginning of a new study on northern infrastructure...and huge needs in Canada. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are conducting a study on northern infrastructure projects and strategies. We're going to try to prepare a comprehensive report in what seems like a very short amount of time.
We're very interested in new technologies, new approaches to providing what we all consider to be basic rights, like the Internet, to all Canadians. We look forward to hearing what you, as experts, have to tell us in terms of new and innovative approaches.
Before we start, we always recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people here in Ontario. This is an important step for all Canadians every time we meet, every time we have an event, a celebration. Let's remember our history at a time when we are finally moving through truth and reconciliation, an important movement for every Canadian.
The way this works is that we'll have 10 minutes for a presentation from each presenter. After the presentations, we'll have rounds of questions from the MPs.
Not to hold us up any further, I understand that we have what is officially the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Has it been split? Are you actually Northern Development now?
First of all, I'd like to thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today.
My comments today will focus on what we're learning about the priorities of Arctic residents, as we continue to work toward a new Arctic and northern policy framework.
On December 21, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be developing a new Arctic policy framework, together with Northerners, territorial and provincial governments, the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
The development of the new framework and the co-development process drew from the work of Mary Simon, the minister's special representative on participation, and from advice for a new approach to leadership in the Canadian Arctic. Closing infrastructure gaps in the Arctic was a key theme of the report.
Since 2016, we've been holding consultations and working with residents and leaders in the North and with other stakeholders to support the development of the framework.
We're working directly with the territorial and provincial governments involved, with representatives of Nunavut, lnuvialuit, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, and with other partners to draft a vision and common goals that will guide the federal government's activities to 2030. More than 30 departments and agencies have participated in the process.
The balance of my comments today will focus on what we heard and learned through this process. To support engagement, a discussion guide was co-developed with partners who identified six themes as a starting point for conversations on the future of the Canadian Arctic and northern policy, including comprehensive Arctic infrastructure. The discussion guide, and our conversations at round tables and other engagements, started with an acknowledgement of the gaps and challenges. These acknowledgements were, and remain, important for our co-development partners who live with these challenges daily.
The harsh environment, changing weather patterns, short construction and shipping seasons, lack of building resources and a small tax base create significant challenges and risks to building and maintaining infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic. We acknowledge that Canada's Arctic has a significant infrastructure deficit, one that is posing significant challenges to socio-economic growth, emergency management, resource development and the fundamental safety and quality of life of Arctic residents.
Climate change is also accelerating threats to existing infrastructure. Thawing permafrost is directly impacting the integrity of building foundations, roads, runways, pipelines and coastal infrastructure.
However, we agree that investments and improvement in infrastructure are linked to improved outcomes across many other sectors. For example, improving connectivity would help bridge the digital divide and provide new and enhanced opportunities for Arctic residents to access telehealth, e-health, and e-learning services and increase their potential to be engaged in the digital economy and support economic development.
Most importantly, we asked people what the key priorities for their region were. Throughout the engagement, we heard that infrastructure concerns were a common theme, including the need for transformative investments in Arctic and northern infrastructure, rather than the remedial approach that only perpetuates a state of crisis.
Almost everyone who spoke about infrastructure mentioned reliable broadband Internet access as a priority, enabling business, research, education and access to health services. Other infrastructure needs included navigation aids, better port facilities, better airport facilities, reliable rail networks and roads to access mineral resources and communities.
Northern communities and organizations emphasized their desire for partnership and opportunities to play a constructive role in infrastructure. Territorial governments, through their participation in the co-development process, and in strategic documents such as “Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development”, have pointed to large-scale infrastructure investments as foundational to creating economic opportunity and prosperity for northerners.
Through the ongoing co-development and co-drafting process, partners have a shared ambition for infrastructure to 2030 and beyond, and for a strengthened Arctic infrastructure that meets local, regional and national needs. Proposed infrastructure objectives are wide-ranging and include transportation, energy, connectivity, housing, community infrastructure, mapping, navigation and waste management.
Significantly, work is focused not only on the “what” of infrastructure priorities in the north and in the Arctic, but also on the “how”. Co-development partners are seeking policy commitments to explore new approaches to infrastructure development, including funding models, leveraging partnerships for financing and operations, and combining infrastructure projects to achieve multiple outcomes—for example, corridors and community infrastructure for food production.
They are also focused on innovations to increase the sustainability and resiliency of infrastructure, in relation to climate change and also given past experiences with shortages of material and expertise to support maintenance on a long-term basis.
The local element is key in the area of infrastructure, as in other themes. Northerners are seeking a framework with people at its core.
In closing, our discussions with partners started from immediate challenges and gaps, but quickly moved to the need for long-term approaches to meeting those challenges and addressing those gaps together. Nowhere is this need for a long-term, partnership-based approach more evident than in discussions on infrastructure.
I look forward to your questions and ongoing discussions on this. I want to thank you. Merci and mahsi.
Thank you for inviting us to participate in this discussion today.
My name is Nathalie Lechasseur, and I’m the Director General of the Program Integrations Directorate of the Program Operations Branch of Infrastructure Canada. I’m joined by Sean Keenan, who is the Director General of the Economic Aanalysis and Results Directorate of the Policy and Results Branch.
Our department, Infrastructure Canada, is responsible for delivering the investing in Canada infrastructure plan worth over $180 billion, in coordination with other federal partner departments.
The plan was designed to support five key infrastructure priorities. These priorities are public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, and rural and northern communities' infrastructure. Our provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous partners identified these priorities as key to the health, success and sustainability of their communities.
Infrastructure Canada has signed bilateral agreements with all the provinces and territories. These agreements will provide $33 billion through various funding streams.
I'll focus my remarks today on the investments that Infrastructure Canada is making to benefit rural and northern communities.
We know that Canada's rural and northern communities have unique needs that require a more targeted approach. Issues such as road access, Internet connectivity and reducing a community's dependence on diesel can make a real difference in peoples' lives and contribute to Canada's overall success.
That's why the investing in Canada plan includes $2 billion in dedicated funding through the rural and northern communities' infrastructure funding stream to address the communities' unique priorities. Our approach is designed to take into consideration the priorities of rural, remote and Indigenous communities while helping to grow local economies, build strong and inclusive communities, and safeguard the environment and health of Canadians.
This stream will provide smaller communities with funding for infrastructure projects such as local roads, broadband, air and marine infrastructure, and food security. It will also provide funding for the improved health and education facilities that support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action.
In addition, the new $400 million Arctic Energy Fund will support renewable energy and improve existing energy systems in the territories, including in Indigenous communities.
Under the rural and northern communities infrastructure stream, we've increased the federal share of project funding to 60% for communities with populations of fewer than 5,000. In communities in the territories, the federal share can be up to 75%.
For Indigenous community projects, the federal cost share can also be up to 75%. Indigenous project recipients can combine federal funding up to 100% from a number of sources. As a result, projects led by Indigenous organizations can advance local priorities with this access to federal funding.
Rural and northern communities can access funding programs administered by other federal departments, in addition to the other funding streams under the investing in Canada plan. These communities also benefit from existing programs and funding managed by Infrastructure Canada, such as the federal Gas Tax Fund and the New Building Canada Fund.
We're working with the provinces and territories to support the projects that will contribute to the health, sustainability and success of Canada's rural and northern communities.
I want to thank the committee for inviting us and for giving us the opportunity to participate in today's discussions. Mr. Keenan and I will be happy to answer your questions.
Good afternoon, everyone.
My name is Marco Presutti, and I'm the Director General of the Electricity Resources Branch. I'm pleased to be here to share my perspective.
My branch is responsible for the electricity-related policy issues. We're also responsible for a number of federal programs that support the development of new energy infrastructure across Canada, including in the north.
One of our current areas of focus, on which we're working to support the government right now, is helping rural and remote communities reduce their dependency on diesel fuel and helping them to move toward newer and cleaner sources of electricity generation. To put the challenge into perspective, there are about 200 communities in Canada that are not connected to the North American electricity grid and are entirely dependent on diesel fuel for electricity. Most are located far from large population centres, of course. It can come at great expense to try to build transmission infrastructure to get electricity to these communities.
We're focused on these communities for a number of reasons. It's expensive to transport diesel fuel to them and to service them. It poses a number of risks to human health and the environment. We're talking about spills, greenhouse gases and air pollution from combustion. Also, the government has made a strong commitment to support indigenous communities. Two-thirds of the target communities here are indigenous. We know that energy projects can have a wider array of socio-economic benefits. Ownership of these assets can be a key part of self-determination.
Through budget 2017, the government launched a new program that's led by our department. It's called the clean energy for rural and remote communities program. It has about $220 million over six years to fund energy infrastructure projects that reduce diesel dependency in communities across Canada. It supports a number of federal priorities, including clean growth, climate change and indigenous reconciliation. We're not the only funding source. One of my colleagues has already talked about the others. The Arctic energy fund and the northern REACHE program are other important ones.
In terms of the program and where we're at, it's early days. We launched the program in the new year. Since then, we've received and reviewed about 130 project proposals. We've shortlisted 43 of them and we're considering them for funding. We're now conducting the due diligence to make sure we've picked the best projects across the country.
What I can tell you is that we've seen strong demand for the program. The program is oversubscribed. We have more proposals than we're able to fund. We're also very happy that 93% of the projects we're reviewing are targeting indigenous communities, and many of them are led by the communities themselves.
We're also happy about the types of new and innovative technologies that are being proposed. We're looking at demonstrations and deployments of small-scale hydro, biomass, wind and solar.
We have a continuous intake process for applications. The initial projects that we're funding are not the only projects. We're still looking at other projects. We have a small amount of funding, about 5% of the envelope, for community capacity. That's to ensure that communities that are less advanced, less prepared to present projects, have some funding to put their proposals together and work with us.
I'll keep it short. I'll conclude by saying again that we're very encouraged by the first wave of project proposals we've received. We're doing our homework to make sure they're solid. We know this is a long-term endeavour. The program is not going to eliminate diesel use in Canada—that's a much bigger challenge—but it's going to make an important contribution, a down payment, if you will.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I represent the lands and minerals sector of Natural Resources Canada.
We play an important role in the development of natural resources in the North, in particular with regard to the policies related to the mining sector and the technical surveys associated with the lands sector.
Natural Resources Canada is working collaboratively with provincial and territorial governments to develop the Canadian minerals and metals plan, a national mining plan with a singular goal of establishing Canada as the leading mining nation not just today, but for years to come.
The mining sector provides high-paying jobs, training and opportunities to enhance the quality of life for Northerners and to build more resilient communities.
Mining requires investments in roads, ports, rail, energy transmission, airports, and telecommunications, especially in northern, isolated, and remote communities. Our northern stakeholders have told us that they need government support for basic infrastructure so that more mining projects with potential can be considered and developed. NRCan is playing a leadership role in the development of the Arctic and northern policy framework. As the framework aims to close the socio-economic gaps that currently exist in the north, resource development, especially mining, will be the central driver for this change.
We see NRCan geoscience as being fundamental knowledge infrastructure required to achieve the framework vision by directly supporting the exploration sector in the north. We also believe that the acquisition of new geospatial data and capacity-building for northerners to be able to use that data and derived knowledge will be a determining factor for sound decision-making about land and infrastructure development in the north.
NRCan science also plays a key role in linking resilience to climate change adaptation practices—for instance, as it pertains to coastal erosion mitigation, disaster mitigation, and permafrost. Climate change is recognized as a key driver of change in the north, both in terms of the impact it has on existing infrastructure and in terms of how it leads to increased access in the north, thereby necessitating new infrastructure. If you wish, I could speak to many examples where NRCan science has supported the establishment of sound infrastructure in the north and reduced risks and costs for the future.
In addition, public geoscience is critical to unlocking benefits from the discovery and extraction of new mineral deposits, extending the life of existing mines. We also have several examples where investments in geomapping made through NRCan programs have led to such benefits.
I am keeping it short, Chair. This is all I have to say.
I thank the committee for inviting us to speak.
I want to thank the public servants for their presentations. I agree that the subject of our study is very broad.
I want to address two aspects. I first want to look at the digital and cellular aspect, then at the diesel aspect referred to by Mr. Presutti.
Maybe I'll start with the diesel aspect. I'm very pleased that our government has seen it fit to invest so significantly in clean energy transmission for northern and remote communities. It's really important, and these communities have been calling for this for some time. I'd like to know what investments were made prior to 2015 to shift communities away from diesel and toward clean energy. I just don't know if this is the first time it's been done.
Second, I wonder how far south communities need to be in order to benefit from this program. For example, would a community like Rapid Lake, in the northern end of the Pontiac, be a potential beneficiary of this kind of transition, were it to seek funding to shift away? In that same context, there may be communities that seek to shift to hydroelectricity rather than wind or solar, so they need to be hooked up to the grid.
If that's the situation, what kind of support is available to such communities? Typically, they are not used to paying hydro rates. They're used to having diesel paid for by the federal government. I wonder how that transition happens, when the energy needs of a community cease to be provided for by the federal government and are suddenly provided for by a provincial energy company.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that what our partners have been telling us is “Local solutions to local challenges and problems”—where grid connections make sense, but not necessarily grid connections. Some of the projects we've heard.... Some of the potential for a grid connection into Nunavut, for example, is through Churchill, so this is an opportunity where it might make sense to extend the transmission line from Churchill into Nunavut.
The Government of the Northwest Territories, right now, is very keen on its Taltson electric project. It's looking to expand that. That's a locally produced source of energy that it's looking to transmit to the larger population centres, and even into the diamond mines, up into Nunavut in the central Arctic.
I guess the answer is, where it makes sense, in terms of whether there is potential for local production, potential for building hydro facilities in the north. You're right that the sentiment, generally, is that it's very expensive, if not prohibitive, to try to link the south to the north. There will be some cases where we're looking at reducing reliance on diesel.
One thing we noted, and we've heard this consistently, is that Alaska is one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the United States. If they can do it in their Arctic, what are some of the lessons learned that we can do? My colleague pointed out, quite rightly, that we'll probably never get away from diesel. We'll probably need diesel as a backup, but if there are ways of reducing it, that's something to look at.
The other thing that wasn't mentioned but we heard it a lot in our engagement was looking at the potential of waste management. Again, it's more cutting-edge technology. Some of the Nordic countries are burning waste to produce energy. We have landfill issues across the Arctic. Is that an untapped resource, for example? There are lots of different innovative ways to look at things.
That's what I'm getting at. I think we need to be innovative.
One of the questions rolling through my head had to do with the Arctic policy framework and looking at providing energy and all the other things these communities need in terms of transportation, food supply and housing. The cost is absolutely enormous. I'm from northern Ontario, and I know our costs are huge on their own, but I spent a bit of time in the Northwest Territories, and in the Arctic it's hugely expensive to do anything.
It's almost a cart-before-the-horse situation. You want NRCan to help communities develop their resources in a responsible way, with the full participation of the indigenous communities, in order to help pay for the services that are needed in the north. In my riding, especially in the western part of my riding, a lot of the indigenous communities want to participate fully in the economy, but they want to do it in their own way. They want to do it with some say in how the project is managed and developed through its whole life cycle.
I know the departments are respecting the communities in the development of the framework, but what has NRCan been doing with the indigenous communities in terms of developing capacity? What programs are available and what support is there for communities that want to get involved in resource development?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our guests for being here today.
Coming from Alberta, I know that infrastructure kind of follows resource development. People discover resources, and they want to get there. This brings the roads. Once the roads are there, they need Internet access, so they get Internet, and then similarly the power lines come down.
Do you have any breakdown on the potential resources that are out there? The oil sands in Alberta, for instance, contain $3 trillion worth of assets. Do you have any idea what kinds of assets we have sitting in the north, and where they're located at this point? I know that in Alberta, from the 1970s to the middle of the 1990s, they were doing seismic, so they have a picture of what's under the ground for the entire province. Do we have anything like that for the north, for oil and gas, minerals, copper, and diamonds?
Thank you, Madam Chair, for this opportunity to address the committee about transportation infrastructure in Canada's north. I am pleased to be here today along with my colleague Marie-Claude Petit, Director General, Transportation Infrastructure Programs.
It's no surprise that transportation is a lifeline for northern communities and an essential enabler for economic development, including resource development projects. At the same time, transportation infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain due to the challenging Arctic environment. As a result, basic infrastructure is limited in the region, making it difficult, time-consuming and expensive to move passengers and goods in and out of northern communities.
The north is unique, compared to the rest of Canada. However, we must also recognize that each territory is significantly different from the others. For instance, Yukon relies most on its highways and roads network connecting the region to the Northwest Territories, southern Canada and Alaska. The Northwest Territories in turn depends on a variety of modes, including air transport and a system of ice roads and barging operations, whereas Nunavut is reliant mainly on sealift operations and air transport.
In 2016, Transport Canada introduced Transportation 2030, a strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada. The plan is aimed at improving the performance of the transportation system, including in the North. One of the commitments made in the plan is to work with territorial governments, Indigenous peoples and communities in the North to address transportation infrastructure needs and help the local system adapt to climate change.
To this end, in July 2017, the government launched the national trade corridors fund as a merit-based funding program with $2 billion to invest in projects that strengthen the efficiency and resilience of trade and transportation corridors, including in the north.
Within the fund, up to $400 million is being committed to supporting trade and transportation infrastructure investments in Canada's three territories. This dedicated allotment recognizes that transportation infrastructure needs in Canada's north are varied and distinct, and that critical transportation investments have the potential to create new social and economic opportunities for residents.
For example, in June of this year we announced an investment of $102.5 million in the Government of Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Valley Highway project. This represents 73% of the estimated costs associated with this project. In fact, this investment is one of the biggest ones we have made to date through the national trade corridors fund. This funding will support several key phases of the Mackenzie Valley Highway project. The ultimate goal of this project is to build an all-weather road that will connect communities and development sites along this corridor.
Transport Canada is developing a multimodal Arctic transportation policy framework to better position the department to address the needs of northerners. This framework will support greater coherence in departmental actions related to policy, investment and regulatory measures that support a strengthened transportation system and improved social and economic opportunities in the region. This framework will be aligned with the new federal Arctic policy framework being led by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
In fact, Transport Canada has been closely involved in the development of the Arctic and northern policy framework. One of its main themes is comprehensive Arctic infrastructure. This theme prioritizes new foundational initiatives such as transportation infrastructure, which affects the daily lives of Northerners both socially and economically.
I would like to take a moment to highlight a couple of other initiatives under way at Transport Canada that will have a positive impact on transportation infrastructure and operations in Canada's north.
Announced in 2016, the oceans protection plan is the largest investment made to protect Canada's marine environment, with a $1.5-billion investment over five years. The oceans protection plan is being carried out in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis, and in close collaboration with the scientific community, the marine industry, provincial and territorial governments, and other stakeholders.
Some investments to date include search and rescue boats, marine training facilities, and investments in basic marine infrastructure to improve safety. While the latter initiative is primarily intended to support basic infrastructure such as fencing, lighting and mooring bollards in northern communities, I should highlight that approval in principle for funding a project for four double-hulled barges in the Northwest Territories was recently announced, on October 13.
Lastly, I would like to tell you about a relevant study that Transport Canada has recently undertaken.
The 2019 northern transportation systems assessment will provide data to help deepen our understanding of the multimodal transportation infrastructure that will be required to support growing demand in the territorial North over the next 20 years. Findings from the study are expected in winter 2020.
I welcome your questions.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and committee members.
It is my honour to be here today and have the opportunity to provide you with an appreciation of the Canadian Coast Guard's important activities in the Arctic, and particularly those that impact the peoples of the north.
I'm proud to say that the Canadian Coast Guard is a nationally and internationally recognized symbol of security and protection for people who navigate our waters.
Our work has a direct and visible impact on the economic, environmental and physical health of northerners. Our expert crews aboard the icebreaking fleet ensure safe navigation through ice, which ensures that critical supplies and goods get to communities and that ships transiting the Arctic get through safely.
Our system of aids to navigation ensures that mariners have a safe waterway to follow.
In Iqaluit during the navigation season, our professional marine communications and traffic services officers identify, monitor and control vessel traffic and assure mariners of a communication link in times of distress.
Our ever-evolving system of environmental protection equipment, located in strategic locations across the Arctic, defends the Arctic's sensitive ecosystems.
However, we can't do this alone. Our marine safety, security and environmental protection systems involve:
strong partnerships with indigenous peoples and communities;
effective regulations from our federal partners to prevent damaging events;
a robust, layered approach to search and rescue, particularly with our partners, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary; a strong operational partnership with the Royal Canadian Navy, as it brings new capabilities to the Arctic with the Arctic and offshore patrol ships or the Harry DeWolf class;
a recognition that Arctic countries must all come together when significant events strain a single country's resources.
As the Coast Guard has learned through decades of collaboration with our northern partners, the people who live in Canada's Arctic have a deep understanding of the sea. Their survival—and surely Canada's future success in the Arctic—depends on that understanding. We are fully committed to engaging with indigenous partners and stakeholders to ensure safe and secure marine shipping in the Arctic that respects the cultural and environmental significance of the north.
The demand for our presence continues to increase as the shipping season extends due to climate change. To that end, we are investing in the Arctic, including vessel identification and monitoring systems, on-water capabilities, new search and rescue assets, and environmental protection equipment.
Thanks to the oceans protection plan, we're extending the Arctic season for our icebreakers. Most southern Canadians aren't aware that the hulls of the commercial vessels plying our northern waters aren't ice-strengthened and that these vessels can't deliver their cargo without the aid of Coast Guard icebreakers.
In these seas, our icebreakers are the snowplows of the North.
The following are some examples of our improvements to marine safety in the region.
Sixteen community-based Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary units are active at this time, with over 350 auxiliary members and 25 vessels. Those numbers will increase in 2019 and in future years.
To improve data and voice communication capacity within the Coast Guard's Arctic footprint, 22 satellite modems have been purchased to replace antiquated and inefficient models.
Network equipment at the Iqaluit marine communications and traffic services centre will also be replaced in December to further modernize the network and ensure improved reliability and resiliency.
On June 28, we opened a seasonal inshore rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet, crewed by Inuit youth. I had the privilege to meet some of these incredibly competent youth during their work to support the G7 summit in June of this year and saw how valuable their contribution is.
Interest in the Arctic continues to rise as changing climate conditions are making the Canadian Arctic more accessible for marine traffic and economic development.
This access due to changing ice conditions does not always mean less risk, as harder, more dangerous multi-year ice travels down into the southern Arctic waters. Our various layers of marine safety and environmental protection systems are meeting this challenge through new investments.
Our commitment to supporting the Arctic is part of our heritage, and we remain steadfast in that commitment for the future.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for this opportunity. I'd be happy to provide you with any further details on our Arctic programs you require.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for the opportunity to present before you today to inform the committee's study of critical northern infrastructure projects and regional strategies from the perspective of environmental observations and monitoring.
My name is Dilhari Fernando, and I'm a Director General with the Meteorological Service of Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. My colleague Chris Derksen is a research scientist with the science and technology branch of the department.
Environment and Climate Change Canada informs Canadians about protecting and conserving our natural heritage and ensuring a clean, safe and sustainable environment for present and future generations. Our programs focus on minimizing threats to Canadians and their environment from pollution; equipping Canadians to make informed decisions on weather, water and climate conditions; and conserving and restoring Canada's natural environment.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is a science-based department. The department operates a vast and diverse array of infrastructure in the north and in the Arctic to gather environmental data and undertake research to support the delivery of departmental services and to provide important data and information to support the work of many others, including other federal departments and agencies, other levels of government, academia, the private sector and the global community.
In addition to buildings used for research, storage and staff accommodation, the department is the steward of a vast range of specialized observing infrastructure that we use to collect environmental data such as precipitation, air pressure, air quality, etc. This data is used for the production of weather forecasts and warnings, climate information and services, ice services, and long-term records of climate conditions.
In the case of the Eureka installation at Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Environment and Climate Change Canada is also the principal steward of the runway, which is essential for aircraft landings and is a critical access point for federal and other visiting scientists.
Let me provide some details. The Meteorological Service of Canada is the authoritative source for weather, water quantity, air quality and ice information and services. We provide a broad range of services, including issuing public weather forecasts and alerts for approximately 90 communities in the north; monitoring sea ice floes and issuing marine forecasts, advisories and warnings; maintaining long-term records of ice and climate conditions; and collecting information on water levels and flows in Canada's major water basins, including those that flow into the Arctic Ocean.
To provide these services, we operate national monitoring networks to provide information about past and present conditions of the atmosphere, climate, water and ice. Specific to the north and the Arctic, we operate approximately 137 automated weather stations, 21 volunteer-run weather stations, 93 aviation monitoring stations, 16 upper-air operations, 11 lightning detection stations, 13 climate monitoring stations, 34 drifting buoys, one satellite receiving station and 233 hydrometric stations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada also conducts a range of research and monitoring in Canada's north and Arctic to generate important information to help us understand the unique and changing nature of northern ecosystems. As part of this work, we conduct science that leads to improved understanding of how and why Canada's climate is changing and what future climate conditions are projected. Surface observations, satellite data and climate models are fundamental to this sort of research.
The department operates a variety of science and technology facilities and programs in Canada's Arctic, including four permanent High Arctic multi-purpose research stations located at Eureka, Resolute, Alert and Iqaluit. Environment and Climate Change Canada is the primary steward at Eureka, located in Nunavut. Data gathered at Eureka is important for weather modelling and weather forecasting and is shared globally. Eureka is also a key location for acquiring High Arctic observations to support other important science and research programs.
As the steward of this infrastructure, we are responsible for overseeing and maintaining all the associated infrastructure on the site, including the runway, the buildings and the energy generation facility, and for ensuring safe living conditions, such as potable water and sanitation for departmental staff, DND staff and visiting scientists.
I would also like to bring your attention to Alert, at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. Located about 700 kilometres from the North Pole, this is the northernmost inhabited place in the world. Alert is also an important location for upper-air observations, which are critical for weather forecasting, both in the north and in the south, and it is the sentinel site for climate and greenhouse gas observations.
Given the important and unique features of sites such as Eureka and Alert, it is important to note that infrastructure in the Arctic and in the north faces unique operational challenges and is subject to significantly higher operational costs and risks. Remote location, long periods of darkness, and severe weather require that these facilities be fully self-contained for power, water and sanitation. Air is the principal means to bring in supplies and people, which underscores the importance of year-round, safe runways. We also need specialized equipment in remote areas, with design features that allow this equipment to operate in the unique northern and Arctic climate, such as in extreme cold, and have resilience to things such as wildlife. Solutions that are viable in the south, such as solar power, are not always easily transferrable to the north.
In terms of the effects of climate change on infrastructure in the north, the special report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC, entitled “Global Warming of 1.5°C”, indicated that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1°C of global warming so far. The report also noted that vulnerable regions, including the Arctic, experience warming two to three times higher than the global average.
Over the past 40 years, changes over the north and the Arctic include loss of snow cover and sea ice, and changes to permafrost. These changes are consistent with those observed in other northern regions, including Alaska, northern Europe and Russia. There is evidence from climate model simulations that these observed changes in the Arctic and in northern Canada will continue in the coming decades.
There are important factors when considering the possible effects of climate change on infrastructure in the Arctic. Key points to consider include the following: Virtually all of the Canadian north is underlain by permafrost, and the integrity of many northern ecosystems and built infrastructure is dependent on the stability of the permafrost; permafrost is undergoing rapid change, which could threaten the structural stability and functional capability of existing infrastructure; changing coastlines and the loss of sea ice further increase the risk of flooding from rising sea levels and storm surges in some areas.
In conclusion, Environment and Climate Change Canada relies on a wide range of infrastructure across the north to gather important environmental observations for use in the delivery of key services such as weather forecasting and for research on issues such as climate change impacts in the north. Ensuring adequate density, distribution and life-cycle management of infrastructure in the north to enable observations and research is particularly challenging given Canada's vast and remote landscape. This underscores the importance of project management, adaptation to innovative technologies, and the identification and mitigation of risks as we move forward.
Thank you very much.
I'll touch on that. Across the table here, we all have a part in the oceans protection plan.
From the Canadian Coast Guard's perspective, we are investing in areas such as communication. On the communications side, we're making sure that we understand where shipping is, so that when they get into trouble, they can contact us easily, contact the SAR system, and we can respond effectively to that.
On the regulatory side, which Transport can speak to, we can make sure it doesn't happen in the end. The idea is that there are regulations in place that regulate how ships are built to withstand ice so that environmental issues don't occur. We are also investing in new, modern environmental protection equipment, so that when something does happen in the Arctic, we are able to respond to it effectively.
The other part about the investment I talked about was that we can't do it alone. When something significant happens in the Arctic, all Arctic countries come together to respond to that, and that's why you have forums like the Arctic Council, the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, and the Arctic agreements that allow us not only to respond effectively to issues that happen in Canada's Arctic, but also to help each other when it happens on somebody else's Arctic territories.
One of the things we should recognize is that it's not new to us. It's something we've been doing as we have navigated the Arctic and supplied services to the Arctic over the decades. We've been consulting and engaging with the people of the north for that long period of time.
In terms of examples, as we made a decision, through analysis, on where to put the first inshore rescue boat, we went across the Arctic into about 20 different communities and engaged those communities, including the indigenous communities. We asked what would be the best place in the Arctic that could support search and rescue, but support it with the people who were there as well. That's just one example of what we've been doing. In terms of that analysis, we went across the Arctic and used a methodology that looked at what capacities are there, what new shipping is coming along, and where the search and rescue risk is, but that's something we've been doing for decades.
As another example, we are now in the Iqaluit marine communications and traffic services centre. We now have a desk there that's dedicated to Inuit people, to help us deal with hunting and trapping, communications, search and rescue cases, and so on. We're not only consulting, but also integrating the indigenous people of the north into our centre, to be able to deal with search and rescue much more effectively.
Climate change has a direct impact on the safety of navigation through the Arctic. That is its most direct impact in our domain, and that's something I talked about in my opening remarks, in terms of what we're doing to mitigate some of that risk as climate change affects the Arctic.
In terms of our human resources, as we are placing more assets in the Arctic—whether those are search and rescue assets dedicated to the Arctic or environmental protection caches, locations where equipment is being placed—we are attempting to integrate the indigenous communities and other communities into manning that equipment. More importantly, if they cannot be manned on a permanent basis, we're training the local communities how to use that equipment to respond, because when an environmental incident occurs, the Coast Guard may not be the first there, since the Arctic is so vast. The local communities will be the first there, and it's important for us to train those communities and make sure they're able to respond.
Regarding human resources, we're working with the different colleges, particularly the Arctic College, to attract people into the Coast Guard, to help with those environmental caches, or to help with the search and rescue assets, so it's a vital element of our human resource strategy. It's definitely a challenge, but we want to make sure that our response and our services in the Arctic are a success. That's vital to us.
In terms of the environmental caches, we currently have 24 across the Arctic, including one rapid air transportable pack—we call it a RAT pack—in Hay River.
The caches, in and of themselves, are pretty well useless unless you have people who are trained to use them. One of our priorities is to make sure that those local communities are trained. The equipment is modernized as well. Like most equipment, if you don't use it, it becomes useless after a while; it just degrades.
There are two sides to it. One is that we're modernizing the equipment, reinvesting in those caches, and looking at training, making sure that the people are trained to use it, absolutely. The other side of it is that we look across the country, not just the Arctic, and we look at regional response planning or geographic response planning. We look at areas of risk. As that risk changes, not only in the Arctic but across the country, we look at what we have to invest in to be able to address that risk. It's highly likely that as shipping lanes change, as shipping changes in the Arctic over time, we will invest in different caches as we move forward. So, yes, absolutely.
Thanks, I'll answer that question.
There's a WMO report that we will have to make available to the committee on the impacts of changing sea ice on Arctic shipping; that's very important.
In the context of Canada, one thing I want to raise, which is very important, is that the central Arctic is where we're seeing most of the loss of sea ice. In the Canadian Arctic, just the way it's located, the way Arctic sea ice tends to move, we still get a lot of multi-year ice—thicker, older ice that flows down into Canadian waters. While the perception, which is in many ways true, is that the Arctic is opening up and there is less sea ice—the Northwest Passage has opened for ship traffic much more in recent years than it ever did before—the risks are still very real, in the sense that Canadian waterways, with their narrow channels, can be dangerous places to operate in, because sea ice does still drift through those channels during the summer.
While we're seeing the loss of sea ice across the Arctic, there are distinct Canadian challenges that result from that sea ice moving into Canadian territory that we have to be aware of. That's really important from a shipping point of view.