Good afternoon, committee members and Minister. Thanks to all of you for being here today. This is our first full meeting after last week's meeting, when we adopted some procedural motions and set up the structure of the committee.
Minister, first let me say how grateful we all are that you are able to make the time to be available. We had a discussion at our first meeting last week as to how we might set our course. It was decided unanimously in this group, and with a spirit of co-operation, which I anticipate will continue for the duration of this committee, that if you were available, we would all enjoy having you attend. We know how busy you are. Thank you very much for making the time to be here, especially on short notice.
We know how important it is for ministers to be involved with parliamentary committees, so this is a great way for us to start.
I understand we have you for an hour. One thing we're going to do today after you've left is to spend some time charting our course for the future. Your being here today is going to help us a great deal in getting that going. Thank you again.
Committee members, we're joined today not only by Minister Carr but also by Mr. Bob Hamilton from the department, who will be here to help us out as well. Thank you, sir, for attending as well.
Today we're going to talk about the mandate letter and the issues that arise from it. As some or hopefully all of you are aware, there were some estimates tabled in the House late last week. I understand there will be some tomorrow as well at 10 o'clock.
The minister has kindly agreed to come back on a date in March, which I believe we've tentatively set as March 21, to discuss the estimates at that time. Rather than deal with that today, we're going to focus on the issues arising out of the mandate letter, particularly since we're limited in the amount of time we have.
Again, thank you, Minister, for coming today. We're going to start with introductory remarks from Minister Carr for 10 minutes. Then we're going to follow that with questions, using the procedure we adopted last Wednesday at our meeting.
Minister, I'll turn the floor over to you.
To all members of the committee, I am really looking forward to this. It's the first time for me, and it might be the first time for others of you around the table participating in a robust discussion, centred in this building, around this important committee. I think that more and more of our public policy will be and should be stimulated by robust discussion in a multi-partisan way. That's what this committee allows.
Mr. Chair, you were very happy about that spirit of unanimity. I'm wondering when that word will be used again—soon, I hope. We all strive for consensus. Unanimity can be elusive, but I'm sure there will be within your own work and within your own debates robust and respectful disagreement. After all, that's what it's all about.
I congratulate you and I welcome the chance to engage you.
I've prepared some remarks for today but I want to begin by thanking all of you for serving on this committee.
Your efforts here will go a long way in helping to inform and shape how Canada develops its natural resources in ways that benefit communities economically and socially.
The principles of sustainable development are more important now than they have ever been and will be an essential part of our work together.
That's a big responsibility, but also a truly nation-building exercise, because the development of our natural resources puts that at the intersection of so many of Canada's top priorities, for example, climate change and the environment, engagement with indigenous peoples, innovation, economic growth.
The history of Canada's indigenous peoples and generations of immigrants has been shaped by Canada's vast forests, the exploration, development and use of minerals and mines, and the abundance of our energy from hydroelectricity, wind, solar, and nuclear to oil and natural gas.
Central to our stewardship of Canada's natural resources has been our profound connection to the land, water, and wildlife, and the understanding of the quality of life Canada's natural resources have given us and will continue to provide for generations to come, as long as we make good choices, choices based on science and which include the participation of indigenous people and communities.
Natural resource management is a big responsibility. I'm privileged to be tackling this responsibility along with all of you. I'm looking forward to your insights and your input.
As you know, these have been challenging times for many of Canada's natural resource industries. The markets have not been kind to commodities: oil, natural gas, minerals, metals. Forestry also faces dramatic changes in the demand for paper and other forest products.
Low commodity prices have dictated difficult decisions on capital spending and even more difficult ones on personnel. Behind each resource project cancelled or delayed, there are Canadian families affected and facing uncertain futures. As Minister of Natural Resources it is seeing the impact of the commodity downturn on Canadian families that concerns and troubles me the most.
While this government's fast tracking of $750 million in infrastructure spending to Alberta does not make up for the job losses in the private sector, it is a start and a signal that while Canada's federal government cannot change oil prices, we do care and will take all reasonable measures to help.
Commodity cycles are real. They have highs that drive wealth and prosperity and they have lows that reduce the flow of investment capital, impacting jobs and government revenues. While we are in this low cycle, I believe there are things we must do now and over the longer term to realize a brighter future: a future built on innovation and adapting to changing times by finding greener ways to extract and develop our natural resources and get them to market; a future built on investing in clean technology and green infrastructure, making greater use of renewable sources of energy and ensuring that the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency are fully realized.
Where do we begin today?
My mandate letter from the is a good starting point, and its unprecedented release to the public says a lot about the open and transparent approach we are taking. Just as parliamentarians do, any Canadian who is watching this or cares to read reports of this conversation has access to that mandate letter, to which I will be held accountable.
My instructions are to ensure our resource sectors remain a source of jobs, prosperity, and opportunity in a world that values sustainable practices. That goes to the heart of my focus over these past 15 weeks. We can no longer have conversations about resource development or economic growth without talking about environmental sustainability. We can no longer talk about moving our natural resources to markets without first ensuring we have a regulatory process that carries the confidence of Canadians.
It's time for us to have an open discussion about our environmental assessment system, one driven by climate change imperatives, supported by world-renowned science and technology, and reflective of the diversity of Canadians.
It starts by seeking consensus. We'll never get everybody saying the same thing. Just witness the questions that have been posed to me in the House over the last number of weeks. I think if we could get agreement on the other side about the questions they were going to ask the government, we'd be in great shape, but I'm not holding my breath.
But we can develop a process for reviewing and assessing major resource projects that will be acceptable to Canadians. In the interim, we've developed a transitional approach for major resource projects under review. We are not asking the proponents of these existing proposals to go back to square one. Instead, we are insisting upon more meaningful consultations with indigenous peoples and affected communities. We want to listen intently and engage respectfully before decisions on these projects are made, because nothing less will do.
We are also requiring, for the first time, that major federal reviews include an environmental assessment of a project's upstream greenhouse gas emissions. This will help to inform our national climate change plan with the provinces and the territories. Also, we are ensuring that decisions on any resource project are based on science and evidence, and that the evidence includes traditional indigenous knowledge.
That's why we will be modernizing the National Energy Board so that its composition reflects regional views and has deep expertise in indigenous traditional knowledge. This type of engagement is a recurring theme in my mandate letter.
For example, the has also asked me to work closely with the provinces and territories on the Canadian energy strategy. The goal is to protect Canada's energy security while also encouraging energy conservation and bringing cleaner, renewable energy onto a smarter electricity grid.
We have similar ambitions when it comes to the continued greening of our mining and forest industries. The Canadian brand in mining is recognized around the world as a leader in sustainable development and innovation. The same holds true for all of the Canadian forestry companies that have been improving mill efficiencies, finding new uses for conventional forest products, and investing in innovative new products and technologies.
We want to build on these successes. That's why one of the first things our government did was to make sure that Canada is part of Mission Innovation, an ambitious new global partnership that is bringing 20 countries together with some of the world's best-known entrepreneurs to accelerate the clean energy revolution.
I'm very pleased that the member for was able to join me in our hometown of Winnipeg to welcome the American and Mexican secretaries of energy to that historic meeting.
How will we do that? By doubling government investment in transformative clean energy research and development over the next five years, by increasing collaboration among participating countries, and by spurring private sector investments in clean technology. The has already made commitments to invest an additional $100 million each year in clean technology producers and $200 million more annually to support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the natural resource sectors.
Canada has the resources, the expertise, and the experience to lead the fight against climate change while positioning itself as a global leader in low carbon energy and sustainable resource development. We also have an opportunity to do all of this as part of a continental approach with our North American partners. That's especially true in the energy sector.
Earlier this month I hosted the American and Mexican secretaries of energy in Winnipeg where we signed a memorandum of understanding on climate change and energy collaboration. It reflects a bold vision for our continent, a vision that secures North America's place as one of the world's most dynamic energy regions, a vision that strengthens our collective energy security, and a vision that commits us to collaboration on environmental stewardship.
It's a vision within our grasp. A vision with potential for other resource sectors. And a vision that can reset the course of our economy to create opportunities for generations to come.
If we take the power of industry, show respect for the land and water, and acknowledge the essential role of indigenous peoples, we can be an example, not just to the world, but to ourselves.
I'd like to thank the Honourable Jim Carr for presenting to the committee the mandate letter he received from the Prime Minister. Clearly, we need to pay special attention to the important sector that is natural resources.
As you know, mine is the Nickel Belt riding, a region named after the natural resource it is home to, nickel.
It's refreshing to see that the government's approach to natural resource development includes cooperation with the private sector, aboriginal peoples, the municipalities and the three ministers affected by the issue.
As far as support for innovation and clean energy is concerned, it's also very refreshing to hear your plans for the forest, fishery, mining and agriculture industries. I am really looking forward to working with the committee, the minister and Parliament on developing our country's natural resources.
My questions today are about the mining sector.
Nickel Basin in northern Ontario is home to one of the most innovative technology and R and D initiatives. It's kind of a best-kept secret in the mining industry and industry across Canada.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to be at the official launch of LMIT, Laurentian Mining Innovation and Technology. Laurentian University is a world-class leader in R and D in mining research, when you look at the application of innovation in the mining company. It's the only university across Canada that actually has exploration and mining all around it, so they're in a very good position to prosper that.
Part of that LMIT group is the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health. There is also MERC, the Mineral Exploration Research Centre. There is also MIRARCO which looks at mining innovation, and the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, which our visited.
In addition, in northern Ontario we also have NORCAT. NORCAT partners with the private sector in the mining industry to look at bringing some of the products to market. Also, we have CEMI, the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation. The other element we looked at, which is responsible for 23,000 mining and supply jobs across northern Ontario, is SAMSSA. It looks at exporting our products across the world. In addition, as you've heard, there's Neutrino's SNOLAB, which recently won a Nobel prize in physics.
There are a lot of amazing R and D projects happening in the mining industry.
Laurentian University has just applied for funding with the Canada First research excellence fund. This fund typically looks at aerospace, technology, and the health sector. This $65-million R and D initiative is the only application in the mining industry. Laurentian University has made the short list, and is partnering with another fine institution, the University of British Columbia.
Minister, you mentioned earlier about the importance of the mining industry to Canada, and then the innovation part of it. I'll just give a few facts about the mining industry for the committee.
There are approximately 380,000 people across Canada.... The mining industry is the largest employer of aboriginal peoples in Canada on a proportional basis. Employment is poised to increase. Canada has the largest mining and supply sector globally, with more than 3,400 companies supplying engineering, geotech, environmental, and financial, and now they're supplying mining operations.
Those who work in mining have the highest-paid salaries of any industrial sector in Canada, with an average annual pay exceeding $110,000. Canada has an economic agenda in the mining industry for contributing $54 billion to the country's GDP. Also, we're exporting 19.6% of our Canadian goods across the world. When we look at mining and mineral production, we're talking about $43 billion in the Canadian economy.
I extend an invitation for you to visit northern Ontario and the mining industry to look at the innovation and research.
My question, Mr. Minister, is that many companies have spent millions of dollars for exploration of mining projects in Canada. How can the National Energy Board, in co-operation with the Department of the Environment and Climate Change, help to facilitate and support the mining industries and companies in simplifying the start-up of new mines for quicker processing times, permits, and certificates of environmental assessments, which have lagged behind during the past decade?
The second question is, how can Natural Resources, the National Energy Board, and the Department of Environment and Climate Change support the increase and the improvements of the regulatory conditions for exporting across the world?
Well, it would depend, I guess, on how you look at how the system of pipelines works. There have even been a number of pipelines that Enbridge has built—a couple, actually. One goes through Manitoba that does eventually, through the refinery system down at the gulf coast, get to tidewater.
I guess I would just say that I understand politically the point you are trying to make. Certainly, we have big shoulders. We can bear it. We can defend it and argue it. I do think that for the thousands of people who have worked very hard to build those pipelines, and have invested millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars to build 1.2 million barrels per day of additional pipeline capacity, we as politicians should acknowledge that. You've made your political point, and I do understand it, but I would suggest going forward that we acknowledge and congratulate those companies and those workers who have built hundreds of thousands of kilometres of pipeline, and have increased Canadian capacity.
I'm glad to hear that you do recognize there have been approvals through the National Energy Board. I would say the NEB does work. I think there has been a narrative created over the last couple of months that would hold up what you're trying to do, but I would disagree with that narrative. I think the National Energy Board does work. There's always room for improvement, but I think we should not undermine it and undermine the pipelines that were built under that process.
I want to go to the five principles you talked about. I know your goal was to create more certainty and clarity in the transition process for pipelines that were under approval and other projects. Are you aware that what you've announced has actually created more uncertainty and that there is more confusion? Proponents aren't entirely sure, now that the decision will be a political decision, what the criteria will be in terms of measuring upstream GHGs. What will the cabinet be looking at in terms of actual, real numbers? Where are the goalposts you will want proponents to go through?
Of these five principles, which principle will have more weight? Will it be the views of indigenous people? Will it be community engagement? Will it be GHG emissions? There are five principles. Are they listed in order of weight? What are the exact numbers? We haven't seen numbers. It's very hard to get information. Proponents are probably more confused than ever, so I think they're looking for some clarity today.
What is on the government's radar is a whole new approach to federal-provincial relations in Canada.
You know that the will meet the premiers in Vancouver next week for the second time since being elected Prime Minister. The last time the former prime minister of Canada called the premiers to a meeting was January 2009. Seven years, or six years and change, passed between these meetings. How do you have important national conversations when the provincial leaders and the federal prime minister are not at the same table?
I have had the pleasure of speaking either face to face or on the phone with every one of Canada's ministers of energy to talk about the federal role in stimulating a discussion of the Canadian energy strategy which has been so well built so far by the Council of the Federation, the premiers.
I am very keen to have conversations with the Government of Ontario on the Ring of Fire project. We know the enormous potential that it carries. We know where it is at this moment. “This moment” doesn't mean that this is where we'll be in six months or a year. I've reached out to my colleagues.
As many of you, certainly the member for Portage—Lisgar, will know, Winnipeg will be hosting the annual meeting of energy and mines ministers this summer, in August. That will be, if not the first time, then a terrific opportunity for a face-to-face meeting between provincial energy ministers and the federal Minister of Natural Resources. I am keen to have a conversation with northern Ontario about mineral potential there and in other places.
We're keen to work with them collaboratively to ensure that governments are talking to each other, something which for too long, sadly, has not been the case in Canada.
Minister, first, I'd like to thank you for coming here today. I'm a new member, so of course I'm nervous. I've written some things down and I'll kind of hop back and forth.
Before I get started, I'd like to say that I live in a riding in New Brunswick, , which, as some people in this room are well aware, is a very rural riding that relies heavily on natural resources, manufacturing, and agriculture. During the campaign, I met with a lot of people and we talked about a lot of things. A lot of that was centred around agricultural development and innovations in technology, not just pertaining to agriculture but also to manufacturing and natural resource development, and the path forward, not just within natural resource development but in all sectors.
Before I ask my question, I want to highlight a couple of points that caught my eye as you were speaking. One is “A future built on innovation, and adapting to changing times by finding greener ways to extract and develop our natural resources and get them to market”, which I really liked. I highlighted it. For me, that's representative of what I feel we're trying to represent as a party.
The other one which really caught my eye is, “We can no longer have conversations about resource development or economic growth without talking about environmental sustainability.” I recognize that natural resource development is an important part of the Canadian economy, but at the same time, as I'm out going door to door and meeting with stakeholders, I recognize not only an opportunity but a commitment from the people in my area, who would like to see these industries developed using environmentally sustainable approaches.
My question is in regard to your meeting with the other ministers a few weeks ago. You met with American and Mexican colleagues in Winnipeg to sign the memorandum of understanding on the North American clean energy collaboration. Can you please elaborate for the committee on the areas of the collaboration that were agreed to by our government with our North American partners as related to Canada's investment in clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean technology?
First of all, let me start by acknowledging the good work that was done by the previous government on this file. We did not start the trilateral conversations. There was a memorandum of understanding that was signed in December 2014 which led to some good energy mapping continent-wide that we unveiled in Winnipeg. That work was started by the previous government. We give them credit for that. We built on that good, solid platform in meaningful ways. We have established six working groups, all of which will be led by Canada, the United States, or Mexico, and you mentioned some of them. Key areas include low carbon electricity, clean energy technologies, and energy efficiency. We have a lot to learn from our partners continentally on energy efficiency.
With carbon capture, you know there are some high-profile projects, particularly in Saskatchewan. Carbon capture and storage is very expensive at the moment, but we also know, and everyone who owns a device understands, what you pay for it in year one is not always what you pay for it in year five or year eight. These technologies have front-end costs, but over time they become far more reasonably priced. We believe that will be true in some of the cutting-edge technologies, including carbon capture, use and storage.
As for climate change adaptation, I come from a flood-prone province and we understand too well what this means. Just to harken back, my personal mentor in politics was a Progressive Conservative. His name was Duff Roblin. You may recall the name because he built what was known as “Duff's Ditch”. Duff's Ditch was a $63-million or $64-million project that was agreed to by John George Diefenbaker when he was prime minister. He and Duff Roblin were two good Tories, one more progressive than the other. It has saved, in the 50 years that it has been taking all of that excess water from the Red River and channelling it around the city, billions of dollars and countless moments of misery among families. This was a visionary decision about flood mitigation. There will be other opportunities for this government and succeeding governments to have the courage to make a decision that might be unpopular at the moment, but would make sense for generations to come. Adaptation is part of it, and reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector, including from methane.
The three countries will work together to increase alignment and to ensure the North American energy sector is developing responsibly, effectively, and efficiently. We all know that the American administration is working toward a political deadline, and that the political season is well under way, as if any of us haven't noticed. It's going to get more and more intriguing, no doubt. There is a sense at least from our government's perspective that now is a good time to aggressively look at ways of deepening the continental relationship, and that's what we're doing. We're doing it through official groups, and we're doing it with frequent ministerial meetings. In fact, I'll be up early tomorrow morning to catch a plane to Houston for the CERAWeek international conference on energy, one of the most important energy conferences in the world. I will either be on panels or meeting with the secretaries of energy from the United States and Mexico again, only a few weeks later, and also with Australia, Israel, and other countries.
We will take the very good start, we think, that we have established trilaterally in North America and also widen the conversation, particularly around mission innovation, which I described in my remarks.
There is a lot more to do, but it's a very good start. I was thrilled, as I'm sure the member for Portage—Lisgar was, to host this meeting in Manitoba, and it won't be the last meeting that we host in Manitoba.
Okay, thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll speak fast.
Thank you, Minister, for joining us today on such short notice. I really appreciate it.
Before I turn to questions related to your mandate letter, I want to commend you on your recognition that Canadian mining is recognized as a world leader in sustainable development and innovation, but I want to point out for the record that so is Canada's oil and gas industry. Of course, for decades, both our technology and innovation and our regulatory best practices particularly in Alberta have been exported and adopted in other oil-producing regions around the world. Those technologies have served to enhance energy development while minimizing the environmental footprint and creating jobs and increasing government revenue, and the biggest investors and developers of alternative and renewable energies are, of course, conventional oil and gas developers. So those efforts aren't mutually exclusive.
As you mentioned earlier, your mandate letter from the did say that your overarching goal will be to “ensure that our resource sector remains a source of jobs, prosperity, and opportunity.”
As you know, the oil industry lost 100,000 jobs by the end of 2015, and just last month alone, Alberta lost 22,000 full-time jobs. So people in my rural Alberta and responsibly developed resource-based riding are hurting. They're losing their jobs. They're losing their homes. It's a crisis in Alberta and a crisis in Lakeland, and times are becoming desperate for many. My riding and my province, of course, contribute so much to all of Canada, in large part because of the energy development there.
We know and we all acknowledge that Canada's investment climate is influenced by multiple factors, and we recognize that the downturn in the energy sector is being driven primarily by low global oil prices and global economic crises, but a major impact, of course, is government policy and how that either exacerbates or mitigates those external factors.
In your opening comments, you mentioned a transitional approach, which is by nature uncertain and unstable. The changes you've announced to the regulatory approval process are either not fleshed out in detail or are the ones we know for sure are causing confusion, and they will also add costs and delay and time. Like all sectors, Canada's energy industry requires certainty, predictability and stability from government. Your recently announced interim measures and your indications that more may be coming only increase ambiguity, uncertainty, and instability, and ultimately the cost is jobs are lost. I just wonder how soon Canadians can expect the government to clarify its regulatory requirements in order to ensure that our resource sector remains, as noted in your mandate letter, a source of jobs, prosperity, and opportunity.
Thank you. I'll speak quickly.
Thank you again, Minister, for coming so quickly to our meeting. I really do appreciate that. I want to clarify a couple of things.
You've said that there's been no consultation between the NEB and first nations. There were close to 1,000 meetings on the northern gateway alone. With energy east, there have been close to 500 consultation meetings. I just wanted to clarify that. It's a little disingenuous to say that there have been no consultations on that.
You talked about the NDP government in Alberta. If you were to speak to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and their members about what they felt about that carbon tax in Alberta, it would be a very different answer than what you may think you're getting.
I was really happy to hear you talk about the courage of a government to make what may seem to be an unpopular decision at the time. We've been talking a lot about Alberta and Saskatchewan, but we also have to talk about Atlantic Canada, the impact that the energy downturn has had across Canada.
I don't profess to say that a government can control oil prices, but it can control or mitigate the atmosphere that goes around with that. That includes the confidence for the private sector to invest in that sector.
What really concerned me with the and yourself is that when you've been asked, for example, if the energy east or the Trans Mountain pipeline passes the National Energy Board guidelines and review, you won't commit to it. You talked about the courage to make a decision. You will never get consensus on these types of projects, whether it's a waste-water treatment plant or a pipeline.
Why will you not commit to support the energy east and Trans Mountain pipelines, those kinds of projects, if they pass the National Energy Board criteria?