Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members of the committee. It's certainly a pleasure to be here for the first time as Minister of Environment and Climate Change to provide an update on our progress on climate action and environmental protection and how it is reflected in the supplementary estimates.
I am joined today by Christine Hogan, the deputy minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada; Ron Hallman, president and chief executive officer of Parks Canada Agency; and David McGovern, the president of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
I would like to start by recognizing that this meeting is taking place on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples.
Our world faces a number of very significant environmental challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution of a range of types, but perhaps the most topical issue in the recent days has been plastics pollution. All three are critically important and all three are certainly interrelated. All three are challenges, no doubt, but they all offer opportunities for those countries that move early to address them.
Climate change is the existential threat of our age. The science is clear and overwhelming.
If global emissions continue to rise at their current rate, the world could see at least 3 degrees of warming by 2100.
The implications are very real: a warmer climate will intensify weather extremes, result in sea level rise, and reduce the amount of snow, ice and freshwater.
In this regard, the climate issue is a science issue. It is not a political issue and, quite honestly, it should not be a partisan issue. The climate crisis calls for effective and clear-eyed policies that will measurably reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions over the decades to come while promoting clean growth.
Going forward, Canadians understand that economic progress will need to take place in the frame of environmental sustainability. No longer can we think of economic opportunities without also considering environmental impacts. This is increasingly understood in all sectors of our economy. For example, leading money managers and investors, like BlackRock, are making sustainability and climate risk key elements of their investment strategies. Resource companies are committing to a net zero target, as did Canadian steel producers just last week. Others, including Microsoft, have adopted even more ambitious targets.
In the 2019 election, Canadians overwhelmingly demonstrated their concern about climate change. Our government committed to two key climate policies—exceeding our 2030 target of 30% below 2005 levels and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
We have made tremendous progress in addressing greenhouse gas emissions since 2015.
Early in our mandate, we developed the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, the first real climate plan this country has ever had. It contains more than 50 different measures, from phasing out coal to major investments in public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure to energy efficiency for buildings and industries. We invested over $3 billion to scale up clean technology, and we put in place a national price on pollution, because there can be no credible plan to fight pollution if polluting is free.
Achieving net zero will require an economic as well as an environmental transformation and the mobilization of significant amounts of private capital. Certainly a key component of any pathway will be a focus on clean technology. Hoping for technology to save us from the hard policy choices that are required to reduce emissions is not a climate plan. However, a thoughtful approach to clean tech must be part of an effective strategy to get to net zero, and in particular to help us decarbonize key sectors of our economy. Clean tech offers enormous economic opportunities for Canada.
We all have a role to play in fighting climate change, and I would point out that, when we work together, we can achieve great things. Take the Montreal protocol for example. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney—a Conservative prime minister—worked with politicians across party lines, the United States, Nordic countries and the United Nations to protect the ozone layer. It was tremendously effective—197 countries signed on and the treaty went down as the most lauded environmental treaty in history.
Achieving our goals will certainly be challenging and will require leadership from every region of this country.
Now, very briefly, I would like to walk you through our updated estimates that account for changes or developments in particular programs or services. Let us start with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) for Environment and Climate Change Canada outline $134.9 million in adjustments that relate mostly to the implementation of the framework, which included the climate action incentive fund. The fund applies to jurisdictions where the federal carbon pollution pricing system is in effect so we return the fuel charge to Canadians. The new estimates reflect increases of $9.5 million in voted appropriations and $109.1 million in statutory funding.
To support cleaner and more efficient travel, we have also allocated an additional $5.8 million to Natural Resources Canada for a contribution to the City of Brampton for an electric bus trial.
The estimates also reflect $4.7 million to start federal contributions toward eliminating plastic waste.
Let's now turn to Parks Canada, Madam Chair.
Parks Canada is responsible for protecting our treasured natural legacy for future generations to enjoy, as well as important historic and heritage sites.
Parks Canada Agency's spending has gone up $3.5 million, including $2.7 million to commemorate Indian residential school sites in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 79.
The supplementary estimates also seek approval for a vote transfer of $12.9 million from the agency's program expenditures to the agency's new parks account in order to set this money aside and protect it until need for the development of capital infrastructure in the Rouge National Urban Park.
As for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, it is requesting two interdepartmental transfers that total $1.8 million for these supplementary estimates (B).
I am going to stop here, Madam Chair.
I hope this summary provides committee members with the insights they were looking for in the supplementary estimates.
I want to assure the members of this committee and all Canadians of our commitment to fighting climate change and protecting our natural environment. We certainly intend to engage Canadians in discussions around these issues every step of the way.
With that, I am very happy to take your questions.
As you know, any discussion about climate change necessarily leads to a discussion about water resources. At the end of the day, climate change impacts our water resources, whether through flooding or droughts. As you know, during the last election campaign, we committed to creating the Canada Water Agency. It's a pretty innovative idea, and you're responsible for bringing it to life.
Can you share with us your vision for the new agency that is in the works?
Are you envisioning a large-scale organization that will bring together everyone at the federal level responsible for water management and protection?
Otherwise, do you have more modest beginnings in mind, perhaps focusing on a few foundational pieces such as flood prevention and adaptation?
Thank you for your question.
I'd like to start by thanking you for your work on the protection of Canada's freshwater.
As you know, our government committed to keeping Canada's water safe and clean, and creating a Canadian water agency is vital to that objective. I've asked my parliamentary secretary, , the member for Winnipeg South, who is responsible for the Canada Water Agency, to lead this important work.
Although the specifics of the agency's role have yet to be determined, we will work closely with parliamentarians, indigenous groups, governments at every level and the public to ensure Canada's water is safe, clean and well managed.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister, thank you for your appearance today and your opening statement.
In fact, my question ties in with something you said in your statement. It's about the Trans Mountain expansion project. You said, and I quote:
No longer can we think of economic opportunities without also considering environmental impacts.
I'd like to take you back to June 2019. A provision stipulated that, should costs be revised upwards, the bill would be passed on to users, similar to toll highways. That wasn't retained, however. Trans Mountain rejected the option. The Canada Energy Regulator could have stepped in to prevent taxpayers from being stuck with those costs, but it didn't, so taxpayers are the ones who will be on the hook.
Oil companies will get to use the pipeline at a lower cost than the market value. The pipeline won't bring in any profit. Taxpayers are the ones who will have to pay for it, since pipeline users won't be paying any tolls, so to speak. Those costs weren't exactly laid out clearly in the budget.
Isn't the government underestimating the project costs to keep them under wraps, to some extent, so the public doesn't become outraged? The fact of the matter is that the costs are going to go up and the pipeline is going to become more and more expensive.
Clean tech certainly is part of the solution to closing the loop on plastics, just as it is in the climate area.
It's certainly an area of interest for me. I was a clean-tech CEO and a senior executive for 15 years before I decided to enter politics.
Boosting clean technology to address plastic pollution is certainly part of our approach to moving to zero waste. We are supporting Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs through an investment of nearly $19 million in the Canadian plastics innovation challenge, which results in real Canadian-made solutions.
I have a couple of examples. Axipolymer, based in Montreal, will create a recyclable multi-layered film that can be used for food packaging. GreenMantra Technologies, in Brantford, Ontario, will transform polystyrene insulation waste into new insulation.
By improving how we manage plastic waste, we can cut pollution, but we can also create thousands of jobs from new technology solutions that we Canadians are innovating and implementing.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to all of you for being here.
If I had had the opportunity with the , I was going to focus on some of his comments related to clean tech and some of the work that's going on all across the industrial sector, not just to capture carbon but also to develop ways to generally reduce carbon output, for example. I do see it as a primary area where we can really make some dramatic improvements in our overall footprint as a nation.
Frankly, I think it's a more effective tool, and it's certainly a little easier on rural Canadians and Canadians who are at the lower end of the income scale in particular. I think often about the many people who live in my riding, which a lot of people think is just a playground for the rich and famous, but the people who live and work there make about 20% less in family income than the median in Ontario. There are people who really struggle day to day and month to month. They're not living lavishly; they're just trying to get to work. I've always struggled with a carbon tax for those folks. I understand that maybe in other places where there are other options, it's not as big an issue.
What I wanted to do though was to drill down into the programs that speak directly to this whole business of clean tech, this thoughtful approach that we're talking about. As I look through the supplementary estimates, I see that grants and contributions are almost $1 billion in this ministry, $791 million. A lot of those are contributions to agencies and international groups and that kind of stuff.
I'm wondering if in fact there are.... I guess there must be other ministries that are specifically focusing on incentivizing industry, and assisting industry and new businesses that are creating these alternative energies. How much money is the government, overall, across ministries.... Where can we find out how much we're actually doing to create these new opportunities?
Still on this whole business of contributions and grants and the $791 million, there are lots of different things here. I wouldn't begin to understand what all of them are.
Just as an example, I look at Nature Conservancy of Canada, which back in 2014-15 got about $8.8 million and then nothing. Then, of course, grants in support of the natural areas conservation program got money and it continued to grow.
I'm wondering if you can give some specific examples, in maybe just that category, of what specifically that money was for, what kinds of programs were supported, and what measurements were used to determine whether they were successful in terms of achieving targets, specifically in terms of reducing our footprint.
The government committed to return all money raised through the federal carbon price back to the jurisdiction of origin. We do that in two ways.
One is through the CAIF, which represents the funds raised by the carbon price on fuel. Approximately 90% of that money goes directly to households in the form of an annual cheque. The remaining 10% is then provided through programs by my colleague Mr. Jones, and they're focused on supporting small businesses, non-profit organizations, the MUSH sector—municipalities, universities....
Another set of revenue, which we will see but have not yet seen, is compliance payments made by large industry under the large industry component of the carbon price. We have confirmed this money will be returned to the jurisdiction. The government has not yet developed a comprehensive program for that, and we're engaged in discussion with industry about the best way to utilize those funds.
Again, all the money is returned. The programming is focused on reducing emissions. The household return goes directly to the household to use in whatever manner they see fit.
I'm going to stay on the same line, and maybe get a clarification from Mr. Moffet. It also builds on Mr. Aitchison's comments around low-income Canadians and the impact of the price on pollution on them.
Last weekend I was at a free tax clinic at one of the locations in Guelph, Holy Rosary parish. My parish was hosting a volunteer tax clinic for people who make under $35,000. The money they receive annually isn't a cheque other than it comes through the CRA, through their tax return. It is important, particularly for low-income Canadians, to do tax returns because where they didn't used to get money back from the government because they weren't paying taxes, now in this case they do get money back because they're participating in the economy.
We've recently announced this incentive and it's gone up again this year. It's going to go up in future years.
Could you comment on how this incentive can help low-income Canadians and our fight against poverty?
The money comes through the CRA and tax returns, so it's important for people to file tax returns because part of this climate action incentive program, which is $109,147,502 in the supplementary estimates, is flowing to all Canadians, including low-income Canadians.
I have a question around agriculture and the impact of certain government practices on rural Canada versus urban Canada. There were comments made around the climate action incentive fund as it relates to the pricing of pollution—there you go; I got the two items in there—or the carbon tax, as it's commonly known.
In my riding, there was about $12 million removed in the name of the carbon tax from agriculture alone. In one broiler barn, a supply management barn, they have baby chickens and they raise them up to so many pounds. It takes fuel. They were charged a 42% increase because of the carbon tax—$420 on a $1,000 fuel bill, all in the name of the carbon tax.
Those kinds of disproportionate things are going on every day in agriculture. How do we monitor that? Where do we look in the supplementary estimates (B) to prove that? Where do we look to start building a case so we can show the departments and the people that this is going on? How do we give ourselves the tools to get this turned around? It is removing millions of dollars in the name of the carbon tax, yet it's a detriment to our agriculture production and food production in this country.
Okay. I don't mean to interrupt, but I have limited time.
I'm specifically concerned about the sunsetting of the funding in budget 2018 for the national hydrological service.
The reason I'm concerned is that, referring to Mr. Redekopp's point, there are only four indicators in the departmental results report of 2018-19 that were not met. Two of these were in relation to water. I will try to find them here.
One of them has to do with the national hydrological service and the satisfaction that the provinces expressed with the service and their interactions with the service.
It says here that in regard to the hydrological service program, the indicator is a percentage of provincial and territorial partners rating their satisfaction with Environment Canada's hydrometric services. The target is 80% and the actual result was 56%.
I am concerned about the fact that funding for the service.... I'm told it is in the process of trying to upgrade its monitoring stations. Is that correct?
I'm Diane Campbell, the assistant deputy minister of the meteorological service of Canada.
The funding that was received in the budget that you were referring to was targeted towards three specific themes. One of them was to deal with some serious rust-out in our monitoring equipment. That is midway through the delivery. We have focused on the high-risk stations. We plan to complete that infrastructure renewal by the time the money sunsets.
There were two other elements as well. One was to work more closely with provinces and territories on a number of things, including data-sharing mechanisms, and then to enhance the capability of doing hydrological and weather modelling combined, so prediction.
With respect to the second point you raise on satisfaction, this is part of our ongoing approach in the meteorological service, to always talk to out clients, find out how satisfied they are.
We are definitely acknowledging that the provinces and territories would like to have greater real-time access to data on a number of issues. We have formal mechanisms in place with them where we work with them on a monthly basis to co-deliver the programs but also collect what the needs would be. The way we then work with that data and information is to use that to see the gaps for future programming needs or technological needs or innovation needs in the next cycle of program planning and delivery.