I will call this meeting to order.
Before we start, I imagine that I have the consent of the committee and of the House of Commons resources to do a full two hours. That would take us to 6:43 p.m. I don't imagine there are any objections to this. We're just adapting to the previous votes.
We're meeting today to look at the main estimates for 2021-22.
I think everyone here knows the drill for how meetings operate, especially in this virtual space. You can use the language of your choice, of course. When not speaking, put your mike on mute. Please address the meeting through the chair.
Minister Wilkinson, welcome once again to our committee. I know that you're coming to see us again on Monday. I think we'll make you an honorary member of the committee at some point.
As well as the minister, we have, from the Department of the Environment and Climate Change, Christine Hogan, deputy minister; and Linda Drainville, assistant deputy minister, corporate services and finance branch.
From the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, we have David McGovern, president. From Parks Canada, we have Ron Hallman, president and chief executive officer; and Catherine Blanchard, vice-president, finance directorate.
I believe you have opening statements, Minister.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I'm pleased to be with you today to discuss the 2021-22 main estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Parks Canada Agency and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
I am joining you today from beautiful north Vancouver, which is on the traditional ancestral and unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam first nations.
As the chair noted, I am accompanied by a number of officials who will assist me as required.
Since we last met, the government has remained focused on safeguarding the health of Canadians. We've also been focused on laying the groundwork to build a healthier environment and a healthier economy.
The economic recovery that will follow this pandemic will be defined by the global transition to a low-carbon economy. This is an opportunity that Canada cannot miss.
Over the course of the last number of weeks and months, our government has delivered on key commitments to address the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. We unveiled an ambitious but achievable target to reduce our emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030. Our target is supported by a detailed, strengthened climate plan containing over 64 new measures and billions of dollars in new investments.
To ensure that this government and future governments are held to account on climate action, we have put forward Bill , the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act. I look forward to this committee’s consideration of the Bill and remain open to constructive amendments that will strengthen the legislation.
Further, through Budget 2021 we are investing an historic $4 billion to ensure we protect 25% of our land and water by 2025 and 30% of each by 2030, and that we protect species at risk.
We are moving forward with a comprehensive agenda to eliminate plastic pollution, including a ban on harmful single-use plastics, making producers responsible for their plastic waste and developing minimum recycled content standards for products. These measures will drive a circular economy for plastics, representing a significant environmental and economic opportunity that will reduce greenhouse gases and create thousands of new jobs.
We've also introduced the first substantive update to Canada's cornerstone environmental protection legislation, CEPA, in over 20 years. Bill will recognize, for the first time in federal law, Canadians' right to a healthy environment. It will better protect Canadians and the environment from toxic substances.
With regard to the main estimates, total authorities for Environment and Climate Change Canada in 2021-22 amount to just under $1.7 billion. While this appears to be a decrease relative to 2020-21, this difference is, in part, due to delays in the rollout of the low-carbon economy fund as a result of COVID-19, as well as delays in submitting proposals by provinces and territories. This funding will be re-profiled into future years to ensure provinces and territories can access all funds that have been committed and approved.
Additionally, the climate incentive fund and the chemicals management plan both had fixed start and end dates by design. These programs came to their scheduled end dates. However, the CMP was renewed in budget 2021 and other investments were also announced in the budget. Subject to parliamentary approval, these decisions will be reflected in future estimates.
It is expected that funding for Environment and Climate Change Canada will increase in subsequent estimates due to budget 2021 investments.
For Parks Canada, the Agency’s Main Estimates for 2021-22 are approximately $1.129 billion, which represents an increase of $26.1 million when compared to the previous year. This increase is primarily due to the ratification of collective agreements.
For new funding, the largest item is $222.1 million to support capital assets in Canada’s national parks, conservation areas and historic sites.
For the Impact Assessment Agency, the main estimates total $79 million, which represents a $2.5-million increase compared to the 2020-21 main estimates. That difference is primarily due to an increase in the agency's grants and contributions to support public and indigenous participation.
As I noted at the beginning of my remarks, our government's top priority remains supporting Canadians through the pandemic, but we recognize that we need to look toward the future and lay the groundwork for a sustainable recovery. We have made significant progress, and many of these initiatives are captured in these main estimates.
I look forward to discussing them with you today.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Mr. Wilkinson, to you and to all on your team. Thanks for coming.
You know, of course, that today is the day the Michigan governor has ordered for the shutdown of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that moves half of the gasoline from Ontario and Quebec. Your colleague, , has stated that it would take the equivalent of 800 rail cars and 2,000 carbon-emitting trucks per day to move the same amount of gasoline. He also personally vowed to fight to keep the pipeline open.
I have a simple question to start with. As the environment minister, will you also personally vow to fight to keep Enbridge Line 5 operating? Yes or no?
That was not a typo in the budget.
The focus of the efforts globally on climate obviously need to be informed by science. This government believes in science and evidence-based policy-making. Science tells us that we need to be more ambitious going forward. You saw that reflected in the commitments that were made not only by Canada, but by Japan, by the European Union, by the United Kingdom and by the United States of America at the Earth Summit a couple of weeks ago.
We have defined a pathway to 36% thus far. We have continuing work to do. We have nine years through which to actually ensure that we're doing that work, although obviously some of that work needs to be done over the next few years. There are certainly areas where we can do more. I think Canadians would think we were all a bit crazy, irrespective of party, if we said, well, we have 36% in the bank and we're done, even though it doesn't align with what the science tells us we must do on climate.
Yes, we have greater ambition and we need to do some more work, and that's what Canadians would expect us to do.
Thanks very much, Chair. That's correct, I'll be sharing my time with Ms. Saks.
Minister, thank you very much for being here today to speak with the committee.
My constituents in Etobicoke Centre are understandably very concerned about the impact of climate change. They expect us, as a government, to do what's necessary to protect our planet. To do so, they expect the Government of Canada to ensure that we reduce our emissions in Canada and globally to the degree necessary to achieve that objective.
Our government has made substantial investments, including in budget 2021, towards a green recovery, to create middle-class jobs, build a clean economy, and fight and protect against climate change. Could you summarize for us what emission-reduction targets our government has committed to, and to what degree this would reduce our emissions? What legislative measures will we pass to ensure this government and future ones will live up to these commitments?
As you know very well, climate change is both an existential threat to humanity and a massive economic opportunity for countries that move early and aggressively. When our government took office five years ago, Canada's emissions were going the wrong way. We were on track to be 12% higher in 2030 than emissions were in 2005. We developed Canada's first national climate plan in 2016, and brought forward a further-strengthened climate plan last December that provides a very detailed pathway for Canada to exceed its initial Paris Agreement target. That plan represented one of the most detailed climate plans that exists around the world, but we knew we needed to do more. Budget 2021 made significant additional investments in that regard.
In April, alongside the and with the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan, we announced that Canada would commit to reducing emissions to 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, which is an increase of up to 50% from Canada's previous target. To keep all future governments accountable, we are also moving forward with a net-zero accountability act to enhance accountability and introduce five-year binding targets.
The bottom line is that these targets are not just ensuring a healthier environment. It's a plan to build a cleaner and more competitive economy for generations to come.
Thank you to my colleague, Mr. Baker.
Thank you to the officials who have made time for us today. It's great to see you all.
As you know, for many Canadians, sustainable environment also means sustainable wildlife stocks and protecting our natural resources and our natural environment. Recently, our committee studied Environment Canada's enforcement of CEPA. Over the past decade, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development conducted audits on toxic substances and protecting fish from mining effluent, which called on Environment and Climate Change Canada's enforcement branch to implement a risk-based approach. We had a lot of discussions about the risk-based approach.
Can you explain what work has been done since then to address the commissioner's recommendation?
Thank you. It's certainly a very important set of issues, and it's important to address the commissioner's audits.
We announced a new investment of about $51 million for the enforcement branch, which will help it to build on its current base and to develop world-class, scientific, robust knowledge of the risk to the environment and conservation due to non-compliance with laws and regulations.
There are four key areas of enhanced action. One is the risk analysis. It's putting in place a risk analysis process, which responds directly to the request from the commissioner. It enhances the field strength, so there's the onboarding of 24 new enforcement officers to support enforcement actions. There's additional training with respect to officer training on the ground, and better electronic infrastructure to meet the enforcement demands of the new age. The government is making the required investments to ensure that we are keeping Canadians safe and that polluters pay.
Thank you for being here, Mr. Minister, and thanks also to all those accompanying you.
In your speaking notes, you talked about an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 45%. You say it is achievable. I feel that is worthy of being highlighted.
You talked about 64 new measures and about billions of dollars in new investments. Since those 64 new measures give you confidence as to the achievement of the targets, I'd like to hear you briefly describe those new measures. With the chair's permission, perhaps we can have written information on the criteria you chose to distribute all those billions.
In the decision-making process, are you using an evaluation grid? Which tools do you use to select projects and how do you choose the bodies responsible for managing them?
Thank you, my dear colleague.
Those are not simple questions, but I will try answer them. I would be happy to meet with you in order to discuss them some more.
We have selection criteria for the measures that we are planning to use, of course. However, there are measures in each sector of the economy that emits greenhouse gases. Of course, with vehicles, for example, we are making investments in infrastructure for electric vehicles, but we also have subsidies to make sure that Canadians can buy zero-emission electric vehicles. The measures deal with particular issues in each sector, and, of course, we have criteria to evaluate how effective the measures are.
Of course, I am very open to continuing the conversation for longer.
If I understand you correctly, you have evaluation grids for each project and we could have them in writing. Thank you.
In your speech, you said that the funding for Environment and Climate Change Canada had increased. However, as I look through the Departmental Plan 2021-2022, I see that the planned expenditures in the category entitled “Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change” are, in broad terms, $540 million in 2021-2022, then they drop significantly to $284 million in 2022-2023, and to $254 million in 2023-2024.
How do you justify that reduction? The money is just melting away.
Maybe it's a pointed question.
I may ask the deputy minister to say a few words, but I can tell you that the reduction in funding for one particular five-year program was planned from the outset. It is called the low carbon economy fund. Yes, it is being reduced, but that was part of the plan.
As for the other measures, the estimates do not necessarily reflect the budget. With the Chemicals Management Plan, for example, the budget contains new investments, but they are not in the estimates.
I would just say, yes, yes and yes in terms of your question.
Yes, we need to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, those that incent production and exploration with respect to fossil fuels. That's a commitment we've made. That's something we are working on right now.
Yes, we need to ensure that there is more in the way of the utilization of recycled plastics and non-virgin resin. That is something we intend to do under CEPA: put in place a requirement with respect to the percentage of recycled content that must be in products going forward.
Yes, we need to work with the Canada Plastics Pact and others on product design to ensure that recyclability is simpler, such that we can raise the very low levels of recycling that happen in this country right now.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
A few weeks ago I submitted an Order Paper question. For those who are watching this committee, members of Parliament have the ability not only to ask questions verbally in the House of Commons, but to submit written questions that the government is supposed to answer. These are usually a bit more specific.
I asked a very specific Order Paper question about the number of infrastructure projects across all government departments, specifically asking about those that are behind schedule and what the delays in those projects have cost Canadian taxpayers. I was pretty alarmed with what came back from Parks Canada. Some of the numbers are very large and, quite frankly, staggering. I'm trying to make sure I'm not missing something, so I'm wondering if I can ask the officials or the minister to explain some of these cost overruns.
For example, for the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site, the original total estimated cost of the project was $8.3 million. There's a delay of one year. No specific reason for the delay was given. The revised estimated total cost is now $18 million, a $10-million increase.
For the Province House National Historic Site, the original total estimated cost of the project was $20 million. It was supposed to be completed in 2019. There's now a five-year delay on this project. No specific reason was given for the delay. The new cost is $91 million. That's a little over $70 million in additional costs due to the delay.
Maybe we'll start with those two. What kind of explanation can be offered to this committee, and to Canadian taxpayers, as to the reason for these delays, and why it's adding so much money to the cost of these projects?
By and large, most of our projects, including during COVID, have been proceeding on schedule or close to schedule. There are some that are of concern, as the member has identified. As the minister has suggested, we could provide greater detail after the committee, if you like, or during the officials' session. We will have our VP of operations with us, who may be able to provide some additional detail at that time.
Province House has been a particular challenge for a number of reasons that are outside of our control, with contractors, etc. It's a fair question though, and we would be happy to do our best to get the member the answers he's looking for.
I recognize that on a project-by-project basis, it might be helpful for the committee to have that longer explanation.
You said something I'm kind of wondering about. I can understand that on normal infrastructure projects there are sometimes many moving pieces. You have municipalities, towns, RMs and large cities. You have provincial layers of government, and the federal government has one-third of the control or ability to manage the projects.
In fact, usually, for most infrastructure programs, the federal government acts as the person who reimburses other levels of government. For delays in projects, you can usually look to municipal governments or provincial governments or whatnot. However, with Parks Canada, we're talking about, in many cases—I'm reading through them—historic sites, like the Rideau Canal, the Trent-Severn Waterway and Jasper National Park. These are facilities that are owned and operated 100% by Parks Canada. There aren't other levels of government that are participating in this.
Again, understanding you might have to come back to the committee with a more specific example, if we go to Jasper National Park, the complete reconstruction program of Whistlers Campground—you're talking about upgrading a campground—was originally estimated to cost $6.7 million. It's jumped up to $62 million. That's a huge jump.
There are a few of these examples, and so far, a quick math shows 46 pages' worth of projects that are behind schedule and now over budget.... You said most of them are on time. Fine, but we're in the business of trying to give the very best results to taxpayers. We're halfway through the list, and I believe the number we've calculated is $400 million in project overruns.
Can you explain how Parks Canada can—
Thanks to the minister and the officials who are here today.
Looking at the estimates, there's a section that has grants and another that has contributions. When I'm looking at the grants, there's “Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change”. In contributions, we have the “Low Carbon Economy Fund”.
I'm looking at how I help to steer my constituents towards the right types of funding streams. There are a lot of grants and a lot of contributions.
In general, what's the difference between those two streams?
Again, it will depend a little on the specific program that you're focused on. Certainly, we have Gs and Cs under the low-carbon economy fund, whereby organizations and communities can apply to have project funding flow to them. There are a whole range of examples.
I think, in your neck of the woods, the University of Guelph had a heating system that was done. It got $640,000 to do a new heating system, which is the equivalent of essentially taking almost 20,000 cars off the road.
The Gs and Cs are set up in such a way that it is about enabling community groups, municipalities, universities and those kinds of things to be able to apply to get federal support to do work on projects that will help reduce emissions.
That is separate and apart, often, from the work we do with provinces and territories directly.
In Guelph, it is like a firehose for me. There are a lot of projects and a lot of people interested in contributing to solutions. The University of Guelph is one, but there are many others, so we will be diving in on that. It's good to see the amount of funding going into grants and contributions, because we have a lot of ideas there.
We also looked at our study on single-use plastics. Madame Pauzé mentioned looking at recycling and topics around that. It's very important for Guelph. Again, I sat on a waste stream management group before I was elected. We looked at the diversion targets on plastics.
I'm getting a lot of emails for further details on plastics. Could the minister explain how the government is taking an integrated approach across Canada and here in Ontario to better manage plastics and recycled materials, and how the main estimates support the goals you have?
Plastic is a very important issue, and as you saw from the scientific study, it is very harmful in the environment, given how we actually treat it today.
We typically are dealing with plastics in a linear fashion today. Recycling rates are very low. Most plastics end up either in the environment or in a landfill. The focus is trying to come up with a comprehensive approach that essentially keeps plastics out of the environment and in the economy.
That means you have to address a whole bunch of different things. Certainly, first and foremost, you have to ensure that what you're trying to recycle is recyclable. The ban on harmful single-use plastics that we are moving forward with is about dealing with those things that are particularly difficult to recycle or very costly to recycle, for which there are readily available alternatives.
Then, you have to have better product design, so we're working with the Canada Plastics Pact to ensure that we're thinking about recyclability in the context of all the work that producers are doing.
We're working with the provinces and territories to put in place extended producer responsibility systems, whereby they are responsible for collecting the plastics. Over time, we will be ratcheting up the percentage that is going to be required to be recycled.
It's about a comprehensive approach to ensure that we're getting at it.
It's a very important question. People think a lot about the crisis of climate change, but we have a competing crisis, which is the crisis of biodiversity loss in this country and around the world.
When we came to office, the protection rate of our oceans, for example, was 1%. We have boosted that to about 15% through the work we have done over the course of the past few years. We have also added an additional 200,000 square kilometres of Canada's land and inland waters, and we're on track to conserve 17% of Canada's lands by 2023 and 25% by 2025.
The budget also contained an additional $4 billion to focus on conservation and protection, to create these protected spaces, but also on addressing species-at-risk issues. It's about trying to stem that decline in biodiversity and ensure that we're living in better harmony with nature.
Minister, I have a question about the Impact Assessment Act. There's a project list that defines which projects receive an automatic federal assessment under the Impact Assessment Act. In addition, you are able, at your discretion, I believe, to designate projects to be assessed under the act. That doesn't happen very often at all. I'm pleased to see that it's happening for Highway 413. However, with the project list, as it's currently defined, your department is assessing fewer projects than it did before. Of course, your government promised to restore the cuts to environmental regulation that took place under Stephen Harper.
Are you considering expanding that project list?
I've noticed what I would say is a bit of a disturbing pattern. On GHG emissions, you committed to meeting certain targets and, of course, we don't meet them. You committed to planting two billion trees. The last time I looked, there wasn't one in the ground yet.
I want to bring up another example. In 2016, to great fanfare—and we're a key group that are part of it—we committed to the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol, to massively scale down Canadian hydrofluorocarbon emissions. Companies were given five years to comply with new recommendations, and most did. However, your government granted last-minute, under-the-table exemptions to industrial manufacturers like DuPont, which didn't comply with these regulations.
Canada's jobs, of course, are important, but so is a level playing field. These exemptions allow up to 1.8 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent of 400,000 cars put back on the road this year.
Why do you think those exemptions were appropriate?
Yes, because obviously if every single company that applied received exemptions, and those that met the criteria worked diligently and spent the money, we've created a very unfair playing field. I'd certainly appreciate that information.
Where I'm going to go next is, of course, to forestry. We're heading into forest fire season, and forestry is huge in my area. You know, the harvesting takes up about eight megatonnes, but forest fires and pests emit 251 megatonnes, so those are big issues in Canada's forests. You've committed significant dollars.
What are your metrics going to be in terms of these dollars and the impact these dollars are going to have? Do you have specific metrics, and where are you in those conversations with the province?
Thank you, Minister and officials, for being available today. It's always good to have you at the committee.
I want to talk about something that's personal to me and my riding. One thing I've noticed over the last year is that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped many Canadians gain a new appreciation for nature. Record numbers of people have been searching for ways to get out and enjoy what the natural world has to offer. One of the best ways to do this is to hike the Great Trail, which stretches from coast to coast and right through the centre of my riding of Kitchener Centre.
How will funding in the estimates help more Canadians get out and gain a new appreciation for Canada's natural beauty?
I was hoping that there might be, maybe, some follow-up. I know there are lots of lawyers employed under Environment Canada; perhaps they could take that back and take a bit more of a deeper dive into it. I know it's legal, but at the same time it's pretty significant in terms of the direction of where plastic is going.
That being said, I'll leave it to the department. We did hear, over and over again, on our plastics study, that the ban on plastics would kill good-paying middle-class jobs and export these jobs to other countries, making Canada the only country in the world that will declare plastics toxic.
We've heard that this will cause trade and transportation issues to the manufacturing sector, increase the cost of Canadians' grocery bills, and lead to more costly alternatives and increased food waste, with no environmental or economic benefits to Canada. We also know that countries like the U.S. have raised major concerns regarding the designation of plastics as toxic.
Can the government provide us with the definition of “plastic manufactured items”?
Thank you, Chair. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to speak more on this.
I would start by acknowledging the incredible effort and work that so many Parks Canada employees and contractors have been putting in over the last year and a bit, during COVID, to keep so many of our critical infrastructure projects moving.
I would start with the point, in response to the member's very good question, that more often than not it's not delays that are driving the cost increases; it's actually the nature of the project, as one might expect, given the complexity and often the heritage nature of certain iconic assets.
In terms of the examples referenced earlier by the other member, project costs for the Whistlers Campground in Jasper, the Trent-Severn Waterway, which is 368 kilometres long, and Province House in P.E.I. were initial project estimates. Often you can't determine what the costs will be until you get into it and find out what you're dealing with. Anyone who's had the joy of doing renovations and repairs would probably relate to that. Infrastructure work of this nature often requires adjustments to the initial estimate as more is learned about the scale and scope of the work needed. That's why we transparently communicate those cost adjustments.
For example, Province House, which members will know is the provincial legislature in P.E.I., has unique needs. It's an excellent example of the complexity of not knowing what you're dealing with in a heritage property until you get the walls opened up and take a look inside.
In terms of the previous member's comment about it being understandable when there are delays with municipalities, that's actually a great point, and I would agree with that. In fact, in the case of Whistlers Campground in Jasper, which the member referenced, members may be interested to know that Parks Canada delivers 120,000 nights of camping at that campground each year across 800 campsites, making it the size, frankly, of a small municipality, for which we do the electrical, the water service, and everything. Now, that campground was built back in the 1960s and has had very little recap since then, so you can imagine what we found when we dug in and started finding out what the underground infrastructure was for what is, frankly, comparable to a town of 2,000 people in Alberta, if you look at an average of 2.3 people per household.
Certainly. Thank you, Chair.
The other thing I would say, Chair, is that the reasons for the cost delays are often quite similar. As I mentioned with the campground example, a lot of these assets haven't been reviewed for many years because of fiscal constraints. More recently, over the past decade and a half probably, successive governments have put priority on our looking at these assets and recapping them and improving them. I'm very proud that we are now at this place where we have more than 80% of our assets in fair to good position. Some of the MPs who have been around a lot longer will remember just how bad some of our assets were about 15 years ago.
What I would say, as a final comment, if I may, is that we really try not to confuse additional scope with additional cost. As we get into an historic waterway sometimes, where not doing the dam properly or the canal properly can have catastrophic effects downstream, etc., once we get into a project, we have to follow through. That's why, for the examples that were referenced earlier, the big campgrounds, canals and iconic places like Province House, those costs go up. Again, it's not necessarily because of delays and it's not entirely unexpected, given the nature and age and complexity of those assets.
I'll make a start on that question, and if my colleague Mr. Nevison wants to add, I will let him do so.
As indicated in his opening comments, a big part of the main estimates story relates to the low-carbon economy fund and the re-profiling of those resources, in part because of some delays encountered in the submission of proposals to access and some of the ripple effects that come with that.
I would also underscore that the main estimates that we're discussing today do not reflect a number of decisions that are in budget 2021, which will be, following approval of Parliament, appearing in future estimates and will reflect an increase in our effort around climate action and clean growth.
Mr. Nevison, would you like to add anything?
Thanks, Chair. I'll go ahead.
Ms. Hogan, I want to come back to the question of Safety Power and the aftermarket emission controls. I'm not sure who's best to answer this question.
We're talking about the fact that these new regulations are coming in, I think, within the next month. In this case, this clean tech company is struggling with understanding how these regulations are going to impact it. The seemed to think it was more important to maintain the climate standards than jobs in Canada.
What specific steps is the government taking to ensure that clean tech companies like Safety Power can remain in operation in Canada after these regulations come into play?
Thanks very much, Chair.
Thank you to all the officials for being here today. It's wonderful to have so many of you here. I'm really looking forward to being able to meet in person, whether that's in the House of Commons or in committee. I don't know how we would manage this meeting if we were all in person, because there are so many of you. If there's a silver lining to being in a pandemic, it's that we have access to so many wonderful folks in a single meeting. Thanks to all of you for being here and making time to answer our questions.
What I want to do is go back to the estimates. I'm thinking about my constituents in Etobicoke Centre, who are watching this or following our committee meetings. I know that when I look at the main estimates, I'm looking at page 2, I guess, or the first page, anyway, and the figures there. Near the bottom, there's a table called “Main Estimates by Purpose”. It breaks down the estimates into key categories: taking action on clean growth and climate change, preventing and managing pollution, conserving nature, and predicting weather and environmental conditions.
These are major areas of spending in terms of protecting the environment and fighting climate change as a government, if I understand correctly. I'm wondering if, for those first three categories, somebody could just walk me through, at the highest possible level, where that funding is going.
For example, taking action on clean growth and climate change has $540 million allocated to it. Could somebody just talk me through what that money is being used for and what's the benefit of that investment for the environment? I think the taxpayers of Etobicoke Centre and Canadians in general would appreciate knowing that.
I will walk you through it briefly. Bear with me, as it could become a bit technical.
What you see at the bottom of page 2 is a comparable table to the table you have above, where you see vote 1, vote 5 and vote 10. When you look at it by purpose, the first one, which has to do with taking action on clean growth and climate change, is mainly the funding we have there for the low-carbon economy fund, as well as the temporary initiative related to modification and adaptation to climate change. That's your first purpose, your first core responsibility.
The second one, which has to do with preventing and managing pollution, is mainly the different programs we have on a recurring basis that are funded on a permanent basis for preventing and managing pollution, as well as addressing air pollution. What we also have there is a portion that is related to the federal contaminated sites action plan, to make sure we keep our environment safe and healthy for our people.
The third core responsibility, which is conserving nature, shows contributions for protecting Canadian nature parks and wild spaces, as well as some permanent funding for conserving nature. Everything that has to do with species at risk is also reflected there.
The last one, which is predicting weather and environmental conditions, has everything to do with our weather radar replacement, as well as our Eureka weather station in Nunavut. That's what it's comprised of, predicting weather and environmental conditions.
Internal services is all the support we provide to those core responsibilities.
I hope this answers your question. Thank you.
It's a very important question.
Before I ask Tara Shannon to comment on this, I will mention the very important role of our indigenous partnerships. There are a couple of examples to point to. One, of course, is the agreement concluded last calendar year with first nations in British Columbia related to the southern mountain caribou. There was a recognition, of course, of the importance of their role in the protection of the species.
As well, a very important feature of our work on the nature agenda is related to what we call the indigenous guardians program.
Maybe I'll ask Tara Shannon to elaborate a bit further.
I'm going to shift this a bit in a direction that's often of interest for each and every one of us as we wake up in the morning and check our weather app.
The main estimates include $67.7 million in capital expenditures in predicting weather and environmental conditions. The work is essential for all Canadians, whether they are fishers, urban dwellers, hikers, farmers, or anyone really just trying to manage their day. The WeatherCAN app is a great and accessible tool.
Can one of the officials please explain what programs and initiatives the capital spending is meant for? I would like to follow up now, so I can get it all in.
How do these investments in predicting weather and environmental conditions account for the effects on climate change?
I'm very happy to have a question relating to our meteorological service, because I would highlight that this year, about 10 days ago, the Meteorological Service of Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary. It's an incredible institution.
I'm very proud of the fact that the men and women who have been leading our weather prediction and forecasting services in particular have worked day in and day out throughout the pandemic to continue to deliver these services to Canadians.
There are two elements I would highlight that you are referencing in the main estimates on the capital side.
First is the $32.8-million Canadian weather radar replacement project. This is, of course, important to modernize the network of weather radars that exist across Canada and across our landscape from coast to coast to coast.
There's also a capital investment highlighted in these main estimates for the Eureka weather station in Nunavut, in the high Arctic. We will be making very important and timely investments in infrastructure, in everything from runways to sewage systems, storage tanks and the like.
Given that this is my last opportunity to speak. I will use it to thank all the witnesses for joining us and for answering our questions.
My question is for the officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The department has set itself the objective to recover the populations of 60% of species at risk by 2025. However, in the 2021-2022 Departmental Plan, we see that the department is standing still. Things are not really moving forward.
Is the government looking at changing the way it supports the recovery of species at risk?
Is its approach to the target compatible with achieving it?
Thank you, Deputy Minister.
To that I would say that the recovery for species at risk takes some time. Once recovery measures are put in place, we are able to measure those results.
In terms of approach, I would highlight that since 2018, in co-operation and coordination with the provinces and territories, we've moved from a single species approach to a more of a multi-species ecosystem approach. That is key to the understanding of species and their role within the biodiversity areas in which they live.
I understand the question, but the response at this time is that we think it's a bit too soon to say we aren't able to meet the target.
I think I heard you say that was for Parks. I'll do my best.
I won't speak for Natural Resources, but I will say Parks Canada very much agrees with and works with our federal partners to the end that natural climate solutions such as planting trees, restoring grasslands and wetlands, and improving land management practices can make significant contributions.
Parks is mobilizing at this time to plant 150,000 trees this summer in up to 18 parks from coast to coast to coast, including 45,000 trees in Rouge National Urban Park. A lot of what we're doing is reaching out to local community groups like 10 Thousand Trees for the Rouge and other organizations, to partner with on that and provide jobs to youth, including disadvantaged youth who may have been affected negatively by the pandemic, to help do that.
Perhaps I'll pick up where my colleague, Madam Pauzé, left off, talking about the two billion trees.
I appreciate, Mr. Hallman, that 150,000 trees are being planted, but we need somewhere around 220 million trees per year in order to make that target by the end of the decade.
I'm wondering a couple of things. First of all—and I understand you're working on this in collaboration with NRCan—I'm wondering where those plans are at in terms of this planting season. Here in British Columbia, tree-planting companies plant about 300 million trees per year, but it's a massive effort. I'm wondering how many trees it's estimated are going to be planted under this federal initiative this year.
Secondly, I know there are a lot of questions around the effectiveness of this tree-planting initiative as a carbon sequestration and carbon storage approach. What are the considerations that your department is ensuring are part of the program, so that we don't simply offset trees that would already be planted under a company's silviculture requirements in the forest industry, or plant trees where they don't grow properly, or plant the wrong species in the wrong places?
Can you speak to those two things: how many trees this year, and what considerations is your department bringing to the table?
Thank you very much. I'm happy to try to comment on the commitment around the two billion trees.
As you well know, this is a very important initiative led by Natural Resources Canada. As made mention during his comments earlier, NRCan has gone out with expressions of interest to identify potential opportunities for this planting season. That work is well under way at Natural Resources Canada.
I can comment that Environment and Climate Change Canada, and particularly our scientists and our folks in the Canadian Wildlife Service, of course, are playing an important role because there's an objective within the tree-planting initiative focused on habitat restoration. This goes to the member's question about where trees are planted, and species. We are working with Natural Resources Canada in that regard.
In the estimates, you mentioned Eureka. I'm looking at the contributions for the World Meteorological Organization and also the support for predicting weather and environmental conditions.
I was fortunate to visit your Environment and Climate Change site up in Eureka and saw the work they were doing in collaboration with international partners. Canada has an arctic footprint. Most of the world knows that, but I think we take that for granted.
In the climate change research that's going on in the Arctic and with all the countries that are using Canada as a spot to also do research, there is a lot of horizontal work between your department and other departments. You mentioned the runway work. We also have defences up there. The Department of National Defence has a small presence up there, with some communications networks.
Can you comment on the importance of continuing the investments in the Arctic, please?
Thank you to the witnesses.
The order of reference for the committee to study the main estimates expires on Monday, May 31. If the committee feels that it has completed its consideration of the main estimates, then we can proceed to taking a decision on the votes that were referred to the committee.
There are seven votes on the main estimates 2021-22 that were referred to the committee. Unless anyone objects, I will seek the unanimous consent of the committee to group the votes together for a single decision.
Is there unanimous consent to proceed that way?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall all votes referred to the committee in the main estimates 2021-22, less interim supply, carry?
DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........874,087,203
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........104,520,877
Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........623,678,109
(Votes 1, 5 and 10 agreed to on division)
IMPACT ASSESSMENT AGENCY OF CANADA
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........50,983,558
Vote 5—Grants and contributions..........22,172,274
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........916,901,348
Vote 5—Payments to the New Parks and Historic Sites Account..........7,371,000
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
Shall I report the votes, less the amount voted in interim supply, back to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: By way of alerting members to what we're doing next week, which is a break week, we've decided to meet for three three-hour meetings. The meetings will be May 17, 19 and 20, on Bill .
Correct me if I'm wrong, Madam Clerk, but I believe that the meetings start at 2:30 p.m., for three hours, so for 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Because of various rules around the House administration, they will be entirely virtual meetings. I would discourage anyone from showing up to the committee room next week for any meetings.
As I mentioned before, we'll have the minister lead off on May 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Ms. McLeod, did I see a hand go up?