The 13th meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is hereby open. As we all know, we are having a meeting today pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, November 2, 2020. In this regard, the committee is resuming its study of the enforcement of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Today’s meeting is in hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. Again, if you're not speaking, either as a witness or as a member of the committee, you can put your mike on mute.
I welcome our witnesses today. Today is our last meeting on the topic of Ms. Collins's motion. Everyone is from Environment and Climate Change Canada. We have Michael Enns, the director general of the risk analysis directorate; Sheldon Jordan, director general of wildlife enforcement; Donald Walker, director general, environmental enforcement; Anne-Marie Pelletier, chief enforcement officer, enforcement branch; Hannah Rogers, executive director, environmental enforcement; and Stéphane Couroux, director, transportation division, energy and transportation.
I believe we have only one opening statement and it will be Madame Pelletier who will speak to us for about 10 minutes. That will be followed by the usual rounds of questioning.
Madame Pelletier, the floor is yours.
Good afternoon, members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be here.
Since the chair has already named the members of my team with me today, I'll move on to my presentation right away.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have a conversation about our commitment to the enforcement of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA.
CEPA is an important part of Canada's federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health.
ECCC administers a broad range of laws and regulations designed to prevent pollution, protect the environment and human health as well as the conservation of wildlife species, their habitat and biodiversity. The role of the enforcement branch is to serve Canadians by carrying out inspections to verify compliance with these laws and regulations, but also by investigating and taking measures to compel compliance when violations are uncovered.
The enforcement branch consists of about 400 employees, of whom 249 are uniformed officers. These officers are highly trained with backgrounds in chemistry, biology and other specializations along with significant law enforcement skills and experience.
The branch consists of a national office in Gatineau, Quebec, which is our headquarters, and offices in five regions: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, prairie and northern, and Pacific and Yukon. Enforcement officers are designated to enforce CEPA and its regulations across Canada in large and small communities. With our regional offices, we also have approximately 25 officers.
In the course of their duties, enforcement officers conduct inspections to verify compliance. The enforcement branch works hand in hand with the different programs in the environmental protection branch, which is responsible for the development and administration of the many regulations under CEPA. This work includes regulatory administration and testing. Cases of non-compliance identified by program staff are referred to the enforcement branch.
When a violation is found, the enforcement branch will choose the appropriate response from among the enforcement tools at their disposal. These tools, designed to achieve compliance, include warnings, directions, compliance orders, tickets and administrative monetary penalties, AMPs. When the environmental harm, risk of environmental harm, or the factual circumstances warrant it, officers conduct investigations and collect evidence to support the laying of charges.
To this end, enforcement works closely with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. This results in a relationship that is very successful in working with the prosecution in order for us to be able to successfully endorse environmental violation.
Enforcement is not just about the individual party or parties that are fined or charged. It's also about conveying to the regulated communities that there are real costs to non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations. We address the wrongdoing and ensure the return to compliance. Along with effective outreach from our colleagues from across the department, enforcement actions communicate to polluters that they will be held accountable for their actions. Successful prosecutions that lead to fines and other penalties send the message that the cost of non-compliance is high. In so doing, enforcement creates an even playing field for companies and sends the message that respect for Canada's environmental law is a basic tenet of doing business in our country.
Achieving those results starts with thorough investigative work. Over the past five years, the enforcement branch has enhanced its capacity for conducting large-scale, complex investigations. We have put in place a major case management protocol and have equipped enforcement officers with advanced investigative tools, a computer forensic unit, resources for evaluating the economic impact of environmental harm, forensic accounting and more.
The enforcement branch and the relevant programs have taken to heart the recommendations of this committee as well as reports from the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. We continually strive to improve our methods and to modernize the branch and its activities.
One of the most important ways we have undertaken to advance our work is to base our activities on a rigorous risk analysis. A risk-based approach to enforcing laws and regulations means that we are conducting analysis to identify where we find the greatest harm to the environment, human health and biodiversity; the level of non-compliance present; and where inspections and enforcement action can be expected to reduce the risk of harm. This approach provides a systematic and data-driven means to allocate our enforcement resources and improve compliance.
We have made investments in better tools for data management and connectivity. This allows for the centralization of critical departmental data in a single location. This integration will continue to transform our data into strategic assets in order to enhance innovation, performance and measurement, decision-making and, ultimately, accountability.
We are also developing the enforcement officer mobile office, which will allow officers to have the necessary information at their fingertips while out in the field to retrieve and upload information from the enforcement database, increasing the effectiveness of their inspections. Mobile tools also allow officers to report observations, and information that will further bolster our intelligence gathering.
ECCC's enforcement branch officers have also been using a novel approach to continue enforcing Canada's environmental laws during the pandemic, while keeping themselves and Canadians safe. Officers are encouraged to use innovative inspection methods and tools, where possible, and complete administrative tasks from home. Where necessary, due to the nature of the incident or non-conformity, our officers continue to conduct in-person inspections. To this end, they follow strict standard operating procedures to ensure that both their personal health and the safety of the public are taken into consideration.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is taking steps to align its planning and operations with federal, provincial and territorial counterparts by launching a working group. We have already co-operated on a number of activities, such as inspections at the borders, joint law enforcement operations and some cross-designation of enforcement officers. We know that by working together with the provinces and territories, we can become even more efficient and effective.
Finally, we continue to adapt our operations as new regulations come into force, and as our mandate and the suite of enforcement tools continue to evolve.
Members of the committee, thank you for your attention. I will be happy to answer your questions.
There were a number of recommendations made by the CESD on how we do priority setting and where we choose to focus our enforcement efforts.
In response to that, we implemented, and have been implementing over the last two years, a risk-based approach, which includes a comprehensive analysis of all the laws and regulations we're responsible to enforce, including those under CEPA, to look at the harm that is done incrementally by offences when they occur. We do life-cycle analysis of toxic substances, for example, to determine how much damage is done to the environment by a particular pollutant, and then we combine that with in-depth analysis of the likelihood of those offences occurring.
Those two pieces go together to form a risk-based approach.
From a likelihood perspective, we look at prior criminal history, at operations of an organization—financial profit and those kinds of things—to create models that, together with the harm, target those offences that are the most likely and most severe from an environmental standpoint. So that—
Good afternoon, Ms. Pelletier.
Your work is extremely important, especially when it comes to the health of the public.
You mentioned in your speech that the Enforcement Branch has enhanced its capacity for conducting investigations. However, one witness told us that Environment and Climate Change Canada has conducted fewer investigations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and that there has been a decrease in the number of inspections.
For example, in 2014-15, there were 4,915 inspections, while in 2018-19, there were 1,608. In addition, there were 60 investigations in 2014-15, compared to 16 in 2018-19, which were therefore conducted prior to the pandemic.
What explains this significant drop in the number of investigations?
The main concern of any enforcement branch, in my view, trying to make effective use of resources is twofold: recruitment and training. We want to get the right people in, and we want to train them in the best possible way.
We've made investments over the course of the last few years to make that training the best it can be in terms of understanding the detailed requirements of the CEPA regulations, the nature and extent of non-compliance, and all of the possible tools to bring back conformity.
In terms of recruitment, again, we invest heavily there to bring in people who have backgrounds that are diverse and scientific in nature, combined with good and detailed knowledge of policing techniques.
That's how we make the most effective use of resources. Recent investments in the enforcement branch have allowed us to double down on those efforts to make even more improvements, which is a big priority for our branch.
Mr. Chair, my motion specifically indicated “in light of the recent charges brought against Volkswagen in December 2019 under the CEPA, following this investigation by Environment and Climate Change Canada”. That was the language in the motion. I have to admit I'm feeling a little bit disappointed that we have witnesses who were not there at the time and cannot necessarily speak to the direct experience of what happened. Being briefed on what happened is different from actually being able to question someone who was involved in the investigation.
With that said, I think the Volkswagen case has been referred to as one of the worst environmental crimes committed in Canada, and Canada's response to it has been characterized as hesitant, weak, inadequate. One of the criticisms was around the length of time it took. In the U.S., the EPA issued a notice of violation to Volkswagen in September 2015, and about a year and a half later the company pleaded guilty—actually less than that, in January 2017—to three criminal felonies, whereas Environment and Climate Change Canada began investigating in September 2015, and charges were only laid four years later, December 2019.
We've heard testimony that the agreed statement of facts from the U.S. would be legally admissible in Canadian courts, that the testing done in Canada was used as evidence by the U.S. government, so why did it take four years to charge Volkswagen here in Canada?
Thanks to all the witnesses for being here.
I'm going to ask Mr. Couroux a question.
In her opening remarks, Madam Pelletier said that the enforcement branch and the relevant programs have taken to heart the recommendations of this committee, which I assume is a reference to the 2017 study by this committee on CEPA.
In the government response, then-environment minister wrote to the committee saying that “some of the...recommendations would be best realized through implementation rather than statutory change”. Then Madam Pelletier listed some of the changes that have happened.
Mr. Couroux, with these changes and these tools in place as they are now, would your enforcement officers have been able to uncover what Volkswagen was doing?
In terms of the minister's office and the Prime Minister's Office, I can tell you that in my experience throughout the case there was no discussion with the minister's office or the Prime Minister's Office about the case itself in terms of what we would put forward to prosecutors and so forth. We did not get guidance directly from the minister's office or the Prime Minister's Office at any point that I'm aware of.
In terms of the length of the investigation, which you also referenced, we needed to establish that an offence took place in Canada, which required an in-depth investigation that had to look at all of the elements. As the presiding judge noted, what took place in the United States was very different in terms of the offences that were pursued, and the admission of guilt by Volkswagen in the United States did not carry any specific weight in terms of a finding of guilt or innocence in Canada. Certainly, everyone was aware of it and considered it, but there was no rubber-stamping of U.S. decisions in Canadian courts.
We needed to conduct our own investigation. We needed to establish the facts that were both the offence in Canada and the relationship with the United States in terms of the vehicles that were tested there and then brought into Canada, as well as the international scene, which took into account Volkswagen the international organization and its relationship with its Canadian and U.S. counterparts.
It's important to us to do a comprehensive investigation, and that is what we put forward in our report to Crown counsel, which is standard practice for any law enforcement organization. It detailed the offence in Canada. It detailed the severity of the crimes. Then the Public Prosecution Service of Canada took that information and pursued the best possible outcome according to what they believed was in the public interest.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd also like to add my thanks to the witnesses for being here with us and for sharing their thoughts as well as their expertise. I'd also like to thank them for all the work that they do every single day behind the scenes, which perhaps goes unnoticed by Canadians, in their efforts to protect Canadians and protect our environment.
My first question will be for Madam Pelletier, and perhaps could also be applied to all of the witnesses who are joining us this evening.
Do you think that the current laws, penalties and all the tools at your disposal are effective at protecting the health and safety of Canadians at large, and also in incenting actors not to break those laws? If yes, why? If not, what can we do as a government to assist you and your team in the invaluable work that you do? Madam Pelletier, as you know, we are looking into how we can reinforce and strengthen CEPA.
In terms of how we prioritize and what it might mean for your constituents, the worse the chemical, the worse its interactions with other chemicals and the greater its impact on the environment, the more likely we are to target businesses, people or groups of businesses that would release that substance into the environment. We use life-cycle analysis to determine that, which means that the receiving environment is taken into account, which means the impact of these things for years and generations to come are at the centre of what we choose to prioritize—bioaccumulation and so forth.
It also means that we target the businesses that we believe are the most likely to be non-compliant. This means that legitimate businesses that are not engaging in behaviours that would cause us to target them are less likely to see an enforcement official and have greater span to do what it is that they do to employ people and to bring jobs into your community.
That is what is at the centre of it. Looking at the chemicals and the pollutants and their relationship with one another and targeting businesses on that basis is not a simple matter, but we do it, and I believe we do it as well as anybody else in the world does.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm just going to echo the thoughts of my colleague, Ms. Saks, on this one, as well as my colleague, Mr. Baker, who previously pointed out that you can't have it both ways.
We wanted to go through an exercise where we could have discussions on different witnesses who we would invite to committee. That was shot down by one of the Conservative members who said no, it's not our job to do that. Now we're in a situation where the witnesses have been brought forward. They were asked by the department to directly respond to questions as outlined in the motion itself, and were brought forward. The department made their decision to bring the experts forward who they thought could best answer these questions.
This is my personal opinion on this, Mr. Chair. They came here; they answered the questions. I don't think the questions were responded to in a way that was very helpful to the point that the honourable NDP member was trying to get across. She was looking for information that would be helpful to try to show in some way that there was a mishandling of this particular case, that in some way the government tried to get involved and let this corporation off easy.
Then, as the meeting went on and the responses weren't in line with the direction the NDP member was hoping this was going to go, at that point, both the Conservatives and the NDP decided that they would start showing frustration. I think the frustration they're expressing towards the inability to answer certain questions is actually more so an expression of the questions being answered but not to the liking of those members.
I would go even further, Mr. Chair, to say that I think it's embarrassing to conduct this kind of an exercise in front of the witnesses we brought forward, who are giving us their time on taxpayers' money, who have done their very best to answer these questions in the most professional manner possible—and I think they've done that very well—only to be witness to this debacle that is being put forward by both the Conservative member as well as the NDP member.
I don't think this is something that Canadians want to see us do. If they were going to approach this, I think it could have been handled differently, by perhaps asking for the witnesses to be excused and for us to have this discussion offline. However, they opted to do it in public, so here we are.
I would go so far as to say that this is something that I think the opposition has strained to do from the beginning, Mr. Chair.
There were witnesses who were brought forward by the opposition members, so we added on another meeting to discuss this and now we're having that meeting. Even with that meeting that was agreed to, which was put forward by the Conservatives and the NDP, now they're not happy with the way that the questions have been responded to.
Once again, I'll end by saying that I think this is incredibly disrespectful to the witnesses we've invited here, and I don't think it does justice to the work that we need to be doing on this committee.
I'll end it there.
In terms of process, the clerk has done a good job of bringing the witnesses to us, has given us advance notice of who those witnesses would be. We've had days with that in our inbox, knowing who was coming before us. It's not fair to the clerk to have her read our minds to figure out whether she has all the witnesses who may have been on other people's minds who weren't on her mind. I think the direction she followed was to get the right department in here so that we could talk about the enforcement of CEPA.
I was hoping to have a question come in about the relationship between the witnesses and the public prosecution services. It's important to see the separation there. I think Ms. Collins was going to this with her questions about whether the Prime Minister's Office was involved or whether ministers' offices were involved.
In terms of the identification of cases and then the prosecution of cases—to make sure that's done independently—that was being established by our witnesses today. They were setting forth a recommendation for prosecution for a case.
Now, the prosecution of the case has happened. Committees aren't prosecutors. We're not juries. We're a partisan group of people. This wouldn't be the place to get an impartial viewing on a case that Volkswagen is already being prosecuted for.
I think the process has been followed. We could have intervened at some point in the last several days to say, wait a minute, we wanted to hear from—
Two things. First of all, I want to make sure we're talking government. That was adopted as a friendly amendment. We don't need to discuss that. That would be my first point.
The second thing is I don't know that I'll argue with Ms. Saks, but I think we're both pretty new to the committee. I'm in meeting two. My real understanding of this issue, of course, came from what I saw in the press. There are outstanding questions clearly the public is looking at. Why did it take four and a half years? Why were the charges different? Why was the money different? To me, those are clearly some of the critical nubs of this issue that remain unanswered. Certainly, from my perspective, this is not a generic motion. It was a specific motion about a specific issue that did identify who we needed to talk to. Contrary to what Mr. Baker said, this is very different, when you have government departments and officials invited, as opposed to witnesses who we put forward.
I understand this is the last meeting and we haven't answered through today, which would have been what I would hope to do...some of those critical outstanding issues.
Thanks very much, Chair.
I have a few points I need to make.
Firstly, when I was first elected over a year ago, I was excited to be part of this committee to protect the environment. I thought that the folks who were here today were answering questions in a thoughtful way. I think they play an important role in doing just that.
I'd like to believe that the other members from all parties who are here today are here for that same reason. I think so. I think what happens sometimes—or I think has happened here—is that we've lost sight of that.
Even if you don't think the witnesses have answers to all of the questions or provide the answers that you would like to hear, you take the opportunity that you have with the witnesses and the committee's time to make the most of that time. If you don't like the scope of what they're able to speak to or the process that was undertaken, or you think that somebody somewhere in the government didn't make the appropriate decision, then you can raise that with the chair. There are avenues to raise that. The avenue is not here because we take time away from what we're here to do. We're here to learn and make recommendations to government to actually protect the environment. That is why I'm here. I didn't run for office to sit here and debate procedural motions that should be debated outside of committee time. That's where that should have been done.
That's the first point.
Secondly, the idea that there's now a motion that we're all forced to debate takes away time from what we're here to do, which is to understand how we can improve the enforcement of CEPA, which touches Canadians' lives in many ways. That's what Canadians and my constituents would want us to be doing. That's secondarily problematic.
Thirdly, I understand that the motion's been amended to say “government”. At the end of the day, I think the fact that it was brought forward with “Liberal members” shows that there was a misunderstanding of how this process works. That to me is disappointing. It's disappointing that the Liberal members in this committee were brought out and criticized in the initial motion as though we had some sort of discretion in that decision.
Fourthly, the process for selecting witnesses—as Mr. Albas told me very clearly last time—is well established. Last time, when I had a meaningful contribution to make—not partisan or political, just somebody who could speak to something that we were studying in a way that I thought other witnesses wouldn't be able to as well—I offered that. I was told how wrong I was for bringing that forward because the witnesses were approved by the subcommittee. Now, I understand that in this particular study, that process was a little bit different.
The point I'm making is the same one that Mr. Albas reminded me of last meeting, which is that the process for selecting witnesses is well established. If we don't like the process, we don't jump up to have a debate in the middle of a working meeting where we're learning about how we can improve the enforcement of CEPA and protect the environment. We certainly don't introduce motions that cast blame upon other members of the committee who have absolutely nothing to do with that process.
All I'm saying is that this was an opportunity. I'm disappointed. I was learning a lot. I think that if we want to have procedural debates, let's have them. There's a subcommittee for that. There's a chair and a clerk. Let's have that discussion.
To have all of the members of the committee on the record debating this is disappointing, when we could be on record hearing from people who are really thoughtful, knowledgeable, affect our lives every day and protect our environment. That's why I came to this committee. That's what I would hope we would be doing.
I would urge us to learn from this experience. In future meetings, let's focus on the topic at hand. I'm happy to have debates with Mr. Albas, Ms. Collins, the chair and anybody else who wants to about how we select witnesses and ensure that happens properly.
The last point I'll make is that I think it is incumbent—as Mr. Albas reminded me last meeting—upon all of the members of this committee to make sure that the types of witnesses that they want brought forward are actually invited to speak. I hear what Mr. Albas is saying, which is that this is different than the last meeting and study. What's not different is that the process is well established, all of the members of the committee know what that process is and all of the members of the committee have an opportunity to present witnesses as suggestions.
In fact, what would have been a thoughtful thing to do—and that I certainly think I would have done if I were interested in the questions that some of the members wanted to raise about the prosecution of this particular case—would have been to recommend or request, through the process that is well established, that the prosecutors be invited to this meeting and that they be heard from, so that you can ask those questions.
The onus is also—as I was reminded last time by other members of the committee—on members of this committee to propose witnesses or, at the very least, departments or categories of witnesses to make sure that the right types of witnesses, with the right expertise, are brought forth.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to echo some of Mr. Baker's remarks, because one of the reasons that I joined this committee was that I have a degree in chemistry and I have a degree in pharmacy, so the health aspect of the environment was very important to me in reviewing CEPA and making sure that Canadians were protected from material that would be released into the environment and would have a direct impact on people's health. This is one of the reasons why I decided to join, including also combatting climate change and making sure that we leave a better environment to the next generation.
Having been involved in studies in the past, one thing I've done with my own studies is to make sure that when I propose a study, I also look at the full value and the full context of the study to make sure that I try to bring out information that I think would be relevant.
We get the list of the witnesses beforehand, so nobody is blind as to who the witnesses are when the meeting happens. There is ample opportunity for all of us—and I'm not picking on one particular person—to read the notice of meeting. It has a list of all the witnesses there, prior to every meeting.
If I'm proposing a study, obviously there is a personal interest, but I think there is also an interest for the country. I would want to get the broadest range of witnesses to make sure that my topic was thoroughly studied from beginning to end, that we had all the information and that we made sure we created a report for Canadians that would be thorough. They would be able to read the report and they would understand why this study was started, what the purpose of the study was and how it was going to affect me or my constituents.
Obviously, the CEPA review is going to have a broad effect on society as a whole. As a pharmacist and someone who studied chemistry, I think I would want to make sure that the enforcement capacity was there. If you don't have the enforcement capacity, it's not really going to be helpful.
We all know who the witnesses are. The witness list is not a surprise at any given time. When we get our notice of meeting, we have the witnesses. I try to suggest witnesses who I think can provide not only one context but a much broader view, because the environment should not be a partisan issue. What we should be debating about on the environment is how we reach the objectives that we need to get reach.
If you want to do this in a broad-based way, then I think we need the widest range witnesses. Those witnesses should be known to us all. If I suggest some witnesses and somebody else suggests some witnesses they would suggest.... If witnesses needed to be called.... The witness list was published beforehand. To blame the Liberal Party or the Liberal government or whatever you say, I don't think that's very fair, because everybody saw the witness list. This was not a surprise. For these witnesses who came today, their names were published.
You knew beforehand. We all knew beforehand who would be here, who would not be here and what would be their fulsome contribution to the study and to the committee. That's something that's known to us all. Whether that's discussed at the subcommittee or whether it's discussed after, those names are known to us all. I just want to make that clear.
Thank you, Chair.
That the committee report to the House that it is disappointed and frustrated that the committee was sent witnesses that are not aligned with the motion on Volkswagen CEPA compliance
—and then it should say, I think—
as agreed upon by the committee
with the motion on Volkswagen CEPA compliance.
We don't need “as agreed upon by the committee”, because obviously we agreed upon the motion for the study.
Is it okay to just take out “as agreed upon by the committee”? I think it's a bit clearer.
It would read:
That the committee report to the House that it is disappointed and frustrated that the committee was sent witnesses that are not aligned with the intent of the motion on Volkswagen CEPA compliance.
Does that make sense, Ms. Collins?
Okay. I see the thumbs up.
Just let me write this down.
That the committee report to the House that it is disappointed and frustrated that the committee was sent witnesses that are not aligned with the intention of the motion on Volkswagen CEPA compliance.
Now, this is what we're debating.
Mr. Schiefke has the floor.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's incredible that we're actually, first of all, debating a motion that had originally in some way implied that Liberal members or the Liberal government somehow decided that we were going to have witnesses who were not able to answer questions.
I personally find that offensive, because I worked with the honourable NDP member in trying to figure out what motion we were going to put forward to this committee to study. We both agreed on the equal importance of looking into Volkswagen as well as looking at how we can strengthen the enforcement mechanisms in CEPA.
To then somehow think that I or any other Liberal member of this committee would invite only witnesses who are unable to answer our questions makes absolutely no sense.
I am working diligently, as are many others, on looking at how we can strengthen CEPA. I want to ensure, in the best interests of all Canadians, that I get the best possible information available to me in order to look into how best to do that.
I'm very happy, at least, that
our colleague from the Bloc Québécois said it was unfair to suggest that people from the government would intentionally have invited witnesses who are unable to answer questions here tonight. This is a waste of everyone's time. So, I thank our colleague from the Bloc Québécois very much for moving this amendment.
Since we're at that point, I would add another amendment to Ms. Collins' motion to say that members of the committee had the opportunity to check, in advance, which witnesses would be present at that meeting and that they had the opportunity to say that there was a problem with the selection of those witnesses because they felt they would be unable to answer the questions. After that, the rest of Ms. Collins' motion would follow.
It's incredible that, as my honourable colleague, Mr. Baker, had said, having had the time to review who was actually going to be at this meeting as a witness, and having had a chance in advance to say, “You know what, I don't think these people are going to be qualified to answer these questions”, to then come to committee and say that....Right from the beginning, Ms. Collins pointed out....Why wait until the meeting itself to have us waste an hour and a half of everybody's time, including the witnesses who came, and then have the audacity to complain to the House of Commons that we did not get the witnesses we deserved to respond to the questions we were going to ask?
We all knew who these witnesses would be, number one. If anybody had an issue with that, we had ample time in advance to put forward any kind of objection, but that wasn't done. Instead, we are wasting a considerable amount of this committee's time, which we all agree is incredibly limited given our time slot, and the fact that votes always happen that push into our time. We have incredibly important business to get to, but now we're going to go ahead and waste the time of the House of Commons. This is what we've come to.
From the beginning, I have been incredibly proud of the work we've done on this committee. I feel we have done a very good job of keeping politics on the outside of this committee, and trying to do good by Canadians by ensuring we work together to select the best possible motions, which have been really great motions so far. We have been working together to make sure that whatever reports are sent back to the House of Commons are informative, and allow us, as elected representatives, to make the best possible decisions.
But tonight is a low point for the committee, and politics has reared its ugly head. That was evident with the implication by the NDP member that in some way Liberal members came forward, and purposefully put selected witnesses who could not answer questions.
That is simply unacceptable.
It's unfortunate that she decided to put that motion forward, because it's insulting to all of us members on the government side who want to do the good work of Canadians in getting things done on this committee.
However, the motion has been put forward, and with that, I'm going to move a subamendment, that the committee communicate to the government....
Mr. Chair, unfortunately I have to deal with a family situation here, so I pass my time to whoever is next in line.
I'd like to pick up from my colleague Mr. Schiefke. If we're already expressing disappointment, as my colleague Mr. Albas said earlier, if we're going to vent, then let's vent.
I really feel it's not just that it's disappointing in terms of how the committee has gotten to this point this evening, but all of us have a responsibility, in the witness lists that come forward, in working together in determining who best to fit the study. That has all been done and that work was passed on to the clerk. To even be having this debate is really insulting to the clerk and the work that's done here.
The clerk was very forthcoming in the names that she provided and the work plan that we've all looked at. All the witness names were there. Everything was very transparent and open for all of us to consider ahead of time. I don't include myself in that because I came late to this study, but all of you were here. You knew who was coming forward and you knew how you wanted to frame this study, which is something that Canadians really want to know about. They really want to know how we're going to improve CEPA for the future. That's really the crux of this. To rehash and re-evaluate what was and not provide Canadians and my constituents with a road map of how we ensure enforcement for the future is an absolute waste of time of being here, highly disappointing and a waste of time of the House. We have critical work to do here.
I asked to be on this committee. I felt very fortunate to be able to join this committee. I am profoundly disappointed that this is the level we've gotten to. I've been a member of Parliament and busy in my work here in this committee and other committees for barely over three months, and we can't seem to move forward and work with the witnesses we have, to garner the information that Canadians want to have in terms of how we are going to make sure they are well served in protecting the environment of our country in the future.
We're well past time. I'm sure all of us are tired and would like to go on. There is other important committee business that needs to be done. In terms of putting a motion such as this forward, I'm embarrassed that we're questioning this to the clerk. I'm profoundly disappointed.