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View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you for that.
I will really shift gears for a minute and ask both witnesses to take a shot at answering this question.
Drinking water advisories have been a really big topic and have created many headlines during the pandemic. I know that all of my colleagues will agree that it's unacceptable that any Canadian would be without safe and reliable drinking water during a pandemic. As an example, in my riding this morning a state of emergency was declared in a first nation that lost its drinking water in the midst of the outbreak that's starting to happen in their communities.
From a business perspective, which is where I want you to plug in here, I believe there's a huge opportunity for the indigenous economy, for indigenous businesses, to be part of the solution to this across the country. I'm curious to know whether either of you are aware of or could share some stories or experiences of where consultation has happened between the government and indigenous businesses that might have been an attempt or could be part of contributing to the solution on the drinking water advisories.
Shannin Metatawabin
View Shannin Metatawabin Profile
Shannin Metatawabin
2020-11-17 13:12
Drinking water is integral to human life. The government has responded to this emergency, this pandemic, with billions and billions of support for Canadians all across the country, but that same support is not afforded to indigenous people when we can't even get drinking water. This has been a problem for decades.
The example of what the Prime Minister has done for the pandemic should be the example of what he does for boiled water. This is the starting point of a community that needs drinking water to ensure that they have the right infrastructure. Then they can start thinking about the future and contributing to the economy.
Raymond Wanuch
View Raymond Wanuch Profile
Raymond Wanuch
2020-11-17 13:13
I used to be on the Alberta Water Advisory Committee, and Premier Lougheed was on there. He used to talk about interbasin water transfer. It was specific to Alberta because 90% of the population lived south of Calgary, and most of the indigenous population lived north of Edmonton. Where was that fresh water going to come from? Well, it was going to come from northern Alberta. There were a lot of people who weren't very happy with that suggestion.
I think it is about trying to be innovative. It's like I said with Edmonton and Enoch Cree Nation. Although their traditional territory was adjacent to the North Saskatchewan River, last year Enoch Cree Nation finally had water into their community from the North Saskatchewan River—after all these years.
Yes, it's a huge requirement. I referenced Blood Tribe. They're looking at getting into business, but the glacier that feeds the Oldman River may be gone in 30 years. It doesn't only impact non-indigenous farmers down in that country. It impacts the Blood Tribe that has a big irrigation project. They want their percentages as well. All the—
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Good evening. Ulaakut.
I'm speaking to you this evening from the traditional territory of the Algonquin people here in Ottawa.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'm pleased to join you today, at least virtually, alongside my colleagues Minister Bennett and Minister Vandal. I also want to note the presence of Christiane Fox, deputy minister; Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister; and Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health, first nations and Inuit health branch.
Members, as of October 26, we are aware of 362 active cases of COVID-19 in first nations communities. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we've recorded 1,254 confirmed cases in first nations communities, with 877 recoveries and, tragically, 15 deaths. This number of active cases represents the highest number of active cases to date. In addition, I can report 28 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 among Inuit in Nunavik, Quebec, and all have recovered.
In recent days and weeks, there has been an alarming rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country, including in indigenous communities. We took a number of measures to support indigenous communities at the onset of this pandemic, and as we face the second wave of this pandemic, we are taking stock of what we've learned and applying those lessons rapidly.
We know that when local indigenous leadership is given the necessary resources, they are best placed to successfully respond to a crisis with immediate, innovative and proactive measures to ensure the safety of their members. The low case numbers experienced by first nations communities in the first wave was evidence of this. What is clear now, however, is that the second wave has impacted indigenous communities much harder than the first.
As in the first wave, we've put together and put into place...and ensured that the health and safety of indigenous peoples is my and the Government of Canada's utmost priority.
As the pandemic continues and continues to evolve, we are making sure to prioritize sustainable access to mental health services and continue to support indigenous communities. As such, we have invested new funding of $82.5 million, in addition to the $425 million in existing funding annually for community-based services that address the mental wellness needs of indigenous peoples.
These services comply with public health measures available, and, because of the pandemic, with many telehealth or virtual options, such as the Hope for Wellness Help Line.
We continue to work in partnership with indigenous organizations and communities to support the adaptation of mental health resources and services managed by indigenous communities, and will continue to do so throughout the pandemic and beyond it.
To support the unique challenges faced by indigenous businesses and economies, on June 11, we announced $117 million, plus a $16 million stimulus development fund to support the indigenous tourism industry. This funding builds on the $306.8 million previously announced to help indigenous small and medium-sized businesses.
The Government of Canada is also helping elementary and high school students by providing $112 million to support a safe return to first nations schools on reserve, in addition to the $2 billion being provided to the provinces and territories. And we are working to ensure the security and well-being of indigenous women and children by supporting and expanding a network of family violence prevention shelters for first nations communities across the country, and in the territories.
We continue to promote public health and safety measures and have, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, been actively evaluating and acquiring approved point-of-care tests to meet the needs of indigenous communities, especially those in rural, remote and isolated areas.
As of October 19, 70 GeneXpert instruments had been deployed to enable access to rapid point-of-care testing by indigenous communities across the country.
I'd like to take a moment to thank the health professionals, in particular Indigenous Services Canada nurses, who are supporting indigenous communities across the country by providing quality and culturally appropriate care, testing, contact tracing, prevention and treatment during this pandemic.
I would be remiss if I did not mention an emergency in Neskantaga that has been front and centre in the last few days. The recent shutdown of Neskantaga's water distribution system is indeed alarming. My officials are working directly with the leadership of Neskantaga First Nation, alongside partners such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Matawa First Nations Management, to mitigate the situation and ensure that the community has the support they need until water can be fully restored. Yesterday, Indigenous Services Canada's lead engineer accompanied the Matawa technical team to inspect the community's water infrastructure and continue water sampling.
Funding will be provided for immediate repairs as necessary, and efforts have been redoubled to address the issues with the distribution system and to support the community's new water system to completion. This funding is in addition to the recent $4 million of funding increase towards the project that aims to lift the long-term boil water advisory in that community, bringing the total investment to over $16.4 million. The construction of the community's water treatment plant is in its final stages, and we are optimistic that it will be up and running soon. We will continue to work with the community leadership to find immediate and long-term solutions to this health emergency.
With that, I look forward to taking your questions.
Meegwetch. Nakurmiik. Marsi cho.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just want to take a moment to quickly thank all of the ministers and officials for taking time to be at our committee tonight. We know you're very busy people at this time. We do appreciate your time.
I want to address a few questions to Minister Miller, to begin with.
Minister, I want to talk about the boil water advisory issue for a few minutes. I think you're well aware, and I would acknowledge, that this is a long-standing issue. It's not necessarily a partisan issue. All Canadians agree that this is unacceptable and that we need to find solutions. Canadians are also frustrated when they keep hearing about how the relationship with indigenous people is the most important relationship to the Prime Minister and your government, but at the same time targets are being walked back and goals are not being met.
It appears to me that we're witnessing a crisis management approach from your department on this issue. I think that's frustrating for Canadians. What we need is a truly proactive and collaborative strategy.
My question is actually quite simple. What are the steps that you, as the minister, are taking to bring a more proactive strategy to end this issue for indigenous Canadians?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, MP Vidal, for that critical question, which indeed is key for all Canadians and indigenous peoples living in Canada. It is no surprise to anyone—in particular the issue I mentioned in Neskantaga, which has been an entirely unacceptable situation for 25 years—that this is the result of massive undercapitalization of, specifically, indigenous communities, specifically with respect to resources that, in most communities in Canada, we all take for granted. Indeed, if those were removed from us, we would be crying bloody murder.
It is unacceptable that indigenous communities have been in this situation, yet that has been the case, and we must acknowledge it as a country. The shame lies in not doing anything about it.
From the very get-go, and as we traced the arc of the commitment that was made by the Prime Minister as early as the prior election, we realized quite early that the commitment needed to be doubled, in terms of the number of long-term water advisories that we were covering. This posed, obviously, a logistical problem. It's something in which we invested additional sums. We put billions of dollars into that commitment. My officials—and it's too bad I don't have the water team here—have been working relentlessly to address this in a systematic fashion.
Being the former mayor of Meadow Lake, you would appreciate the challenges with water, water infrastructure and wastewater. For every community these are complex issues. Some we have been able to resolve quickly. Indeed, over the course of our commitment, we've lifted 90 long-term water advisories and prevented a far greater number of short-term water advisories from becoming long-term water advisories. It's important to realize that.
Now, you take the unacceptable trajectory—
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
You talk about lifting the 90 long-term drinking water advisories. When I look at the information on the website where you provide that information, you like to talk a lot. I don't mean that derogatorily, sir, but lots of times you talk about lifting the 90 long-term drinking water advisories, but the number of advisories has not been reduced by that many. If you do the math—and sir, I was an accountant for 30 years—there are over 50 that have been added or have been re-added.
Out of the additions, can you tell me how many of the ones that have been added are ones that are advertised as having been lifted and that are now back on? The overall number has not decreased by 90, with all due respect.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Quite clearly on this, MP Vidal, some that were short and have become long are actually less problematic in terms of lifting. There are some with longer builds—the case at hand being Neskantaga—that have taken some time and are quite complex. I would put to you without generalizing, because it's very important not to generalize, that the ones that have been added to the number—and at some point we should take some time to walk through this, and perhaps the time allotted is not enough—are ones that we are cautiously optimistic will be lifted in relatively short order.
You talked about the website not being updated. Clearly there have been some challenges as communities have locked down—rightly so, to protect their people—and some infrastructure challenges in getting things built. We have been able to do so, and the long-term lifts are a testament to that, but there have been challenges.
We expect to be updating that web page shortly to reflect more detailed information as to where the challenges lie and where the numbers lie, as well, but COVID has placed a challenge on the ability of contractors to get into communities and do all the things we need in order for communities to lift long-term water advisories. Let me stress, it is community—
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
We live in a world where technology and advancements are happening all the time, and I guess just one last quick question is around the approach the department is taking to solving the boil water advisory issue in first nations communities or indigenous communities. Can you identify any kind of new technology or any kind of investigations that are being done in new approaches? In my time as SaskWater chair, there were all kinds of new technologies happening all the time. Could you identify any specific things in that manner that your department is doing to advance this cause?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
We always work with communities on any solutions and we work in partnership with them for the needs in their communities. Some of these plants are state of the art and reflect the highest technology that is available. Obviously, that requires training and a long-term commitment.
I think what I was getting at the end of my point is that we need to be with indigenous communities for the long run, and that's what we will be. It goes way past any deadline in spring 2021, but for a much longer time to come. Communities as a matter of trust are asking us to do that, and we will be there for them, hence the statement in the Speech from the Throne from the Governor General.
View Jaime Battiste Profile
Lib. (NS)
I think that was an important topic, and I want to give Minister Miller enough time to finish his comments around water, because as a Mi'kmaq person who lives on a Mi'kmaq reserve, I woke up this summer without water, and I know that this has an extreme effect. I've been under boil water advisories and not known, unfortunately, until my son reminded me. I just wanted to give you the chance, before I get into my question, to finish off that piece that you were, unfortunately, rushed through in the last questioning.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I guess my point, to conclude, MP Battiste, is that communities have asked us—and it's a matter of trust building and confidence building that is always in question—to be with them in the long run, and the Speech from the Throne underlined not only the critical infrastructure deficit that COVID has laid bare in indigenous communities, but also the need to build that trust and to be with them in partnership in the long run, far past any deadline that the government has fixed.
You and I participated in a great announcement for the Atlantic water board—the name escapes me, and I apologize—
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
—the First Nations Water Authority this summer, which is really groundbreaking in the way that the authority itself is transferred to a first nations-led authority to dictate on their terms what goes on with respect to water in the communities that participated. I think that is key to the way forward, and it is key to addressing a number of the issues that MP Vidal raised in terms of how these plants are built.
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Minister Bennett.
On April 11, 2016, you promised this very committee that your government was committed to putting an end to long-term boil water advisories on reserve within five years. On June 11, 2019, you promised that boil water advisories would end by 2021. Clearly, your government is going to be breaking another promise to indigenous people.
I looked on the website. It has not been updated in terms of boil water advisories since February 15, 2020. That was prior to COVID.
In the estimates, you've allocated approximately $6,832,500 for capital investments. How much of that $6 million will be invested to end boil water advisories?
If you could you limit your response because of the short amount of time, thank you.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would perhaps note that this is a question that most likely should have been directed to me, since Indigenous Services Canada is in charge, in addition to the communities that are affected, in eliminating those boil water advisories.
I believe what you have said to be correct. There have been no public updates since March and perhaps the end of February.
We have continued to invest in ensuring that short-term water advisories do not become long-term ones. Those that are on the list, and indeed the ones remaining, are the most complicated, but I would note that as of December 31, 2019, we've invested more than $1.4 billion with targeted funding to support over 602 waste-water projects, including 276 that are actually now complete. These projects serve about half a million people in first nation communities.
View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
I have just one last point. With COVID, we now know that it's more urgent. This is a very clear human rights violation, and wilful. What is your plan? How long is this going to take? This is a life and death matter.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
We continue aggressively to meet that spring 2021 date that we've set. My team is working around the clock, despite COVID, to keep working on that date. This is community-by-community decision-making, and we are engaged with those communities to ensure that they have the supports they need, even in the face of communities that have decided to close down. We want to make sure that they do have that support for what is best described as an essential service.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you very much, Minister, for being here again today.
I'd like to move to the issue of water, to drinking water in particular. Co-developing and investing in distinctions-based community infrastructure plans and addressing the critical needs of first nation, Inuit and Métis communities includes working in collaboration with partners to identify public water and wastewater system needs, develop infrastructure capital plans and design, and implement management plans for the operation and maintenance of clean water and wastewater systems. I've always said that clean air and clean water are really human rights. As World Water Day approaches, how does government plan to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021? What challenges do we need to overcome? How is government going beyond this commitment to proactively work on sustainable water and wastewater systems?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you for the excellent question. From day one this government, in budget 2016, invested a multi-billion dollar envelope to address the unacceptable long-term water advisory situation on reserves in Canada. To date, we have removed 88 long-term advisories, as well as preventing a number of them. The larger projects, which required buildup time in, you will concede, a very short period for an unacceptable situation, remain to be lifted. We're very confident, with the coming summer...in the coming months to be able to lift a great number of them.
I would remind this committee, because I think it's very important, that as of September 30, 2019, so a few months ago, more than $1.3 billion in targeted funding was invested to support 574 water and wastewater projects, including the 265 that have now been completed. These projects will serve close to half a million people. These are projects that are complex in nature for a variety of reasons—the geological situations, the remoteness of communities—and we are cognizant of that. We have always looked at the indicators and the constantly moving scenario as opposed to simply investing a large amount in infrastructure in 2016. We were constantly engaged with communities that we talked to on a weekly basis to ensure update and partnership. We knew that, and going into budget 2019, we invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the operation and maintenance of these facilities. We knew that these facilities took work and the dedication of people who are now the pride of their community.
There's a lot of work to be done. That's why I've asked my team to focus in particular on the issues we may be facing right now, so that we're not facing them in the spring of 2021, that we remain absolutely committed to.
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to change gear and ask about water supply.
There seems to be an issue with sudden, unpredicted problems with the water supply and the inability to respond quickly to that. For example, the Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario was evacuated earlier this year because of a sudden problem with the water supply.
I've heard this wasn't the case, that there wasn't an inventory of what each first nations community had in their water purification system. When there was a problem, the people in Thunder Bay, for example, who were providing the solutions, didn't know what equipment they had up there. They suggested there ought to be some sort of inventory so that Indigenous Affairs—though I'm not sure who it would be—would know which community has what equipment, so that when there's a problem they're able to rapidly respond.
The second part is that some rapid water purification systems are available. Have you contemplated trying to see if we could use them to respond to these emergencies so they didn't have to do things like evacuate communities?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
We have a wide variety of measures we can put in place when these issues arise. The very strict standards around water are such that issues arise more frequently. Correspondingly, we respond quickly. If you look at what happened in Fort Severn, we're working quite quickly to thaw the pipe that froze.
These things do arise, and we're ready to act quite quickly.
As to the inventory, if we have a second, I'll let my staff respond to the inventory.
Sony Perron
View Sony Perron Profile
Sony Perron
2020-03-12 11:59
We have a good knowledge of recently replaced or built systems. Sometimes additions or changes are made to old systems and our staff are not aware of that. Often when there is a problem, someone with the technical expertise needs to go there to determine the source of the problem. Is it the pump, the filtration system, a maintenance issue?
So at a distance, we have some information. But to be really honest, when no diagnostics can be done at the local level, we sometimes have to fly someone into the community to try to determine the nature of the problem and the potential immediate and long-term solutions.
Amina Stoddart
View Amina Stoddart Profile
Amina Stoddart
2020-03-10 8:58
Thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for providing me with the opportunity to address the committee today.
My name is Dr. Amina Stoddart. I am an assistant professor in the Centre for Water Resources Studies in the Department of Civil and Resource Engineering at Dalhousie University.
Together with my colleagues in the Centre for Water Resources Studies, I work closely with communities, water and wastewater utilities, engineering consultants and technology providers within the water sector to investigate and provide solutions to water and wastewater treatment challenges.
For example, I'm currently leading a research partnership with water and wastewater utility Halifax Water to optimize wastewater treatment approaches to ensure compliance with federal regulations on systems for wastewater effluent and investigate and address emerging priorities for wastewater treatment. This wastewater research builds on a long-term partnership in research on drinking water treatment between Dalhousie University and Halifax Water, which I had the opportunity to be a part of as a researcher.
It is well known and accepted that climate change affects water quantity. We see threats to the availability of water through drought conditions as well as scenarios such as flooding and sea-level rise, where we simply have too much water. While water quantity is a concern, one less-visible and poorly understood challenge is the impact that climate change has on water quality.
Historically, the design of plants for water and wastewater treatment has been based on a regulatory compliance approach, where the focus is on ensuring that treated drinking water or waste water is below specific concentrations for various water-quality parameters at the drinking-water tap or at the end of the wastewater effluent pipe. This approach is based on periodic sampling, log books and a narrow view of water quality, as I will describe.
With this approach, there is a notable absence of consideration for the changes in water quality that may occur over time due to climate change. The water quality of our drinking-water source, such as a lake or a groundwater well, plays a pivotal role in the performance of water-treatment plants and ultimately impacts the water quality at our tap. While seasonality is recognized and accounted for in design, long-term changes that subtly transform a drinking-water source are simply not accounted for under present design paradigms. But this is what is happening to our water quality.
In 2017, our team published research that demonstrated an increased operational burden on water-treatment utilities as a result of regional climate changes impacting the water quality at the source over a 15-year period. Our work showed that, because of climate-driven increases in water pH and natural organic matter concentrations, one drinking-water-treatment plant required nearly a quadrupling in treatment chemical dose over a period of 15 years in order to continue to achieve drinking-water-quality standards. These additional chemical costs required more trucks to ship chemical agents and waste from the plant. To put it another way, climate change resulted in poorer water quality in the lake source and increased greenhouse-gas emissions.
To be clear, these water quality changes were subtle on a day-to-day time scale, but when we observed them retrospectively over more than a decade, we observed a large, impactful change in water quality that we do not see reversing but rather accelerating. We are now studying this on a larger scale with Halifax Water and other utilities, including the New York Department of Environmental Protection and Tampa Bay Water as well as academic colleagues in the U.K. The broad consensus is that we have an imminent challenge that exists for both water and wastewater facilities.
To adapt to climate change, utilities will ultimately need to consider modularity in design, and draw from robust data streams to inform operations.
In light of this, our research team has been working toward modular design solutions that can be employed during times of challenging water quality to assist utilities in achieving water-quality goals.
With respect to data streams, conventionally, regulatory compliance is determined on a very low number of water-quality measurements, considering that millions of litres of water may be produced each day. In this framework, a boil water advisory, for example, is often reduced to a few coliform measurements.
As an answer to this, our research team has looked closely into artificial intelligence as a means to provide robust decision-support data to help improve water quality through a risk management approach.
Ultimately, this is not a small task in front of us; however, the potential of a national water agency creates a strong signal that acknowledges the challenge and the need to prioritize water quality for Canadians.
In closing, I want to inform you that as an assistant professor, I am in the very early days of my research career. However, it is clear that the impact that climate change is having on water quality is already profound and will undoubtedly shape and inform my research career.
Thank you again for the invitation. I look forward to future dialogue.
View Scot Davidson Profile
CPC (ON)
Environment and infrastructure go together.
As well, today you said you have made progress on eliminating long-term boil water advisories on first nation reserves.
In my community, the Chippewas of Georgina Island have been living without access to clean water for far too long. An Infrastructure Canada investment was made through the clean water fund to provide service to the south and east sides of the island. That project has already been completed and the long-term advisory is supposed to be lifted this month. These parts of the island still remain on a boil water advisory today.
Will my family and my neighbours no longer be on a boil water advisory on Georgina Island? When will that be, Minister?
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
While I can't personally commit here to a particular day, I'll tell you that it's a top priority of our government. It is unacceptable that there are places in this country where, in particular, indigenous communities do not have access to clean drinking water. We have made significant progress with 87 long-term drinking water advisories that have been eliminated, but there is clearly work to do.
The good news is that we are making the investments. We are working with communities and we need to make progress, because this is all about making sure that indigenous peoples have access to the same quality of life as everyone else.
View Scot Davidson Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, I am saying specifically here that you're reporting that it's going to be dealt with there, but half the island is still not going to have water service with the investment that's made.
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
I can't provide you specifics on that particular project. If you want to come to us.... It's not directly under me, but I agree with you that we need to be looking at how we can have clean drinking water across the country.
View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
I want to talk a little about capacity development, because certainly in the interests of reconciliation, and so on, we want the first nations communities, to the greatest extent possible, to manage their own affairs just as any municipality would do.
Given the dynamics there, we would also want, for instance, to improve the capacity of the community through apprenticeships, skills training, and so on.
There's the management piece, which is one set of capacity-building that needs to be done, but then there are also the ripple effects of the actual activity of building and operating something in the community. Are both of those covered off through your initiatives?
Chad Westmacott
View Chad Westmacott Profile
Chad Westmacott
2019-05-28 11:48
That is one example of capacity funding that the department provides to first nation communities, because we completely agree that there is that need for capacity development in first nation communities.
The circuit rider training program is one that we're quite proud of. It's an opt-in program that touches just under 600 first nation communities. It's an organization of professional trainers. They go around to every first nation community. They have their circuit that they go to, and they work with the operator of the water treatment facility and the waste-water treatment facility within the first nation communities and provide hands-on training within the first nation community.
It has been heralded by first nations, provinces and territories and others as a shining example of good capacity development in the first nation communities.
Al Kemmere
View Al Kemmere Profile
Al Kemmere
2019-05-06 17:14
Thank you and good afternoon, everybody. It's great to see you gathering together to try to get a good understanding of our perspective on this.
I am Al Kemmere. I'm a councillor in Mountain View County and president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta. For those of you who don't know Alberta very well, Mountain View County is dead centre in the middle of the province. RMA or Rural Municipalities of Alberta covers the whole province—north to south, east to west, touching the Northwest Territories and down to the American border. Under the jurisdiction of our members, we cover about 85% of the provincial land mass. That includes 75% of Alberta's roads and 60% of Alberta's bridges.
I think we're all gathered here to talk about the situation of the aquatic invasive species and the different types that it covers. Aquatic invasive species is an issue that impacts communities throughout Canada. Though we recognize the impact of the problem, the species of concern are diverse and vary right across the various regions of the province. In Alberta, a number of species are of considerable concern, including fish, invertebrates, plants and diseases.
We are hearing from our members and from the Government of Alberta that the species of greatest concern are the two types of mussels: the quagga and the zebra mussels. These mussels are of significant concern for our municipalities. First, they can harm municipally owned and operated assets that serve a community interest. These mussels can attach themselves to infrastructure such as water pipes, irrigation pipes and other underwater structures. They will virtually choke them down to the point of non-productive value.
Anecdotally, we have heard from other municipalities in Canada that have had to spend millions of dollars on their water plants to combat these species. We want to do what we can to avoid those costs. For most municipalities in Alberta, this would be an unbearable cost and it would cause severe harm to their ongoing sustainability. The maintenance cost alone is projected to be $75 million per year to protect or replace the infrastructure that is threatened by the species.
A second point of concern in rural municipalities is that many of our municipalities are home to irrigation. I do have to pat the irrigation sector on the back. They're doing tremendous work to try to mitigate the amount of seepage and evaporation that takes place in their systems by putting pipelines in the ground to transmit their water. However, if we do not do something, these infrastructure pieces that they've put in will be choked down similarly and it will limit the access of irrigation water. It will also limit the access of municipalities to the water that is coming through that system.
The second concern for municipalities regards the impact to the natural ecosystem. While I'm not a scientist, the information brought to me is that these can have significant impacts on the health of the water bodies. These species will go through and eliminate the plankton and all the nutrients in lakes. It would result in algae blooms, which would impact the viability of the fish population within them. These impacts change how people in our communities use their water bodies for both recreation and tourism.
In Alberta, there are 52 prohibited species of plants, fish and diseases listed in the Fisheries Act, including the black, brown and yellow bullhead catfish, goldfish, whirling disease and the Asian tapeworm, to name a few. Other plants, like the flowering rush, are gradually taking over a lot of our lowlands and wetlands as they progress.
In Alberta, in part due to the advocacy of municipalities, our provincial government has established an aquatic invasive species program. To their credit, the government of Alberta program and the public information campaign have been well received—much better than we initially thought. Although it could always be bolstered with additional resources and capacity, there has been a strong response to the complex problem. The Alberta provincial program to combat aquatic invasive species focuses on all aquatic invasive plants, fish and invertebrates.
Given the potential economic impact of the spread of aquatic invasive species in Canada and Alberta, we must make sure that the response is at a national level, as this is such a significant task and we're all linked together. We must do what we can to protect all our water bodies.
This will require a national strategy. It's a strategy that should include prevention, eradication, cross-boundary collaboration and coordination so that we work on this together, province to province, countrywide and also with our neighbours to the south.
In regard to prevention, RMA has passed a resolution advocating a zero-tolerance policy on aquatic invasive species. This starts with a public awareness campaign that is targeted to commercial, industrial and recreational water users as well as being broadly presented to members of the public.
Mandatory inspection sites are also important. They must be strategically located at key points of entry and must make it impossible, or at the very least, very difficult, to bypass the stations. While we have had those stations in my province, they are not based in the most ideal places. This means drivers are going around these stations and avoiding the inspections.
We must also have a plan for the distribution, or guidelines for the allowing, of dumping of aquarium-type fish within our systems. This often seems to be at the root of some of our problems. Outside fish ponds need to be regulated so that we do not expose our drainage systems or our water systems to invasion by these species.
Without a good eradication, in cases where species have been identified, there must be a rapid response that focuses on eradication of that species in the water body and ongoing monitoring to ensure it doesn't emerge. I am not an expert on the tools for that, so I will leave it to you to understand that allowing any tolerances is not acceptable when it comes to identifying these species
Last, it is important that all provinces, territories and the federal government work together in a coordinated approach. Provincial programs, such as those in Alberta, are proving to be effective but they would be greatly aided by a coordinated response with other provincial and nationwide programs.
We recently submitted a letter to this committee regarding this cause. There is more detail provided in that letter. I thank you for allowing us to do that.
I want to thank the committee for putting its time and energy into this issue. It is not a small issue. It does take a good forward-looking approach to make sure we can do something to limit the invasion and to protect our water bodies. Thank you for that.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, thank you very much for inviting me this morning. If it's okay with you and the members of the committee, I will start with a brief statement, and then, obviously, I'd be delighted to take your questions.
Good morning to all of the committee members and thank you for inviting me to speak with you today about infrastructure and our plan for Canada.
I am joined today by deputy minister Kelly Gillis, who I want to thank on the record for her extraordinary work under accelerated circumstances. We have a lot to deliver, and I think she and every civil servant in the department have been doing an outstanding job serving Canadians, to make sure that we can deliver the infrastructure they deserve.
I'm here today to speak with you about Infrastructure Canada's interim estimates and supplementary estimates (B).
More specifically, to support the Government of Canada's priorities in investing in public infrastructure, Infrastructure Canada is seeking $1.8 billion through interim estimates and $150,000 through supplementary estimates (B).
This funding will ensure that communities across Canada have the money they need when they need it.
I would also like to provide you with an update on the progress we are making in delivering the investing in Canada plan. Since I was last before you, I have been continuing my travels across Canada to make critical investments in our communities and, obviously, to see the results. I have heard from Canadians about how their lives have improved through public infrastructure being built in their communities, thanks to federal support.
For example, I visited the town of Drumheller in Alberta, where new dikes are being built on the banks of the Red Deer River, and a flood mitigation system is being put in place to alert the 8,000 residents when the water levels in the dam are rising.
Together, these investments are helping to protect the community against the impacts of flooding for years to come, and I would say, Madam Chair, they're protecting families, businesses and communities from extreme weather events. I spent a bit of time in Drumheller, and one of the reasons I'm here today is to share with you these very real examples of what happens on the ground when we work together to make these investments.
I will give you another example.
In Rivière Rouge, a fibre optic network is being installed that will bring high-speed Internet to over 16,000 households and businesses in 17 Antoine-Labelle municipalities. For people like myself and my colleague the member for Trois-Rivières, Mr. Aubin, access to high-speed Internet in the regions makes distance work, distance medicine and distance education possible. It allows everyone to take part in today's life and tomorrow's economy.
And in Sainte-Eulalie, Quebec, a new wastewater treatment system and pumping station are being built, protecting the health of residents and preserving the waterways of the Centre-du-Québec Region.
I have seen first-hand how our investments are benefiting Canadians across the country, in every region and every community. I have had the privilege of meeting thousands of workers on sites across the country. I can tell you, dear committee members, colleagues and friends, they are the true heroes of our plans. Meeting them continues to be the highlight of my time as minister. They are dedicated, professional and passionate about what they're doing to build a future for Canadians.
Having a diverse workforce on our construction sites is also critically important, which is why I'm pleased that we have included the community employment benefits initiative in our bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories.
It is vital to the success of our country and our workforce to incorporate those groups that are underrepresented in the construction and related industries.
I would now like to talk about the progress we have made to date in delivering our Investing in Canada plan. This plan, as you all know, is investing over $180 billion through five major funding streams: $28.7 billion in public transit infrastructure; $26.9 billion in green infrastructure; $25.3 billion in social infrastructure; $10.1 billion in trade and transportation infrastructure to allow us to get goods to market; and $2 billion for rural and northern communities infrastructure. It's very important, because as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, people talk to me about mobility when I am in cities, and about connectivity when I am in rural areas.
Thanks to the investment plan, we've been able to see progress in green infrastructure, public transit, social and recreational infrastructure, and, of course, address the needs of our rural and northern communities. The plan includes over 70 new programs and initiatives, all of which have launched. More than 33,500 infrastructure projects under those programs and initiatives have been approved to date. Nearly all are underway.
Since my last appearance at this committee in December, I am pleased to note some milestones we have achieved.
First, we have announced the first projects funded through the $2-billion disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, and planning is under way in communities across Canada. I am particularly proud of this program, because this is about making sure we invest in disaster adaptation so that we don't have to invest that much in disaster mitigation, We are making sure that communities like Drumheller and Springbank in Alberta, for example, can see a better future, and will be more resilient. We're protecting families, businesses and, obviously, a way of life. For example, we recently announced $150 million to protect more than 170,000 residents in a number of communities in the greater Toronto area who have been negatively impacted by flash floods and storms.
The Samuel De Champlain Bridge is nearly complete and will open permanently to traffic no later than June 2019. I would like to extend my thanks to the more than 1,600 workers who have worked so hard on this landmark project and to acknowledge their contribution to building our country. We issued a certificate to each and every worker who has worked on the bridge to express the thanks of this nation for their work. I can tell you, Madam Chair, thanks to the deputy minister and colleagues at the department, that we were able to deliver that just in time for Christmas. It was just a token to say, on behalf of all parliamentarians, thank you for what they are doing for the country.
We have announced the BMO Centre expansion project in Calgary, Alberta. The project is expected to create more than 1,800 jobs during construction and 500 new full-time positions once it is completed. This will allow the BMO Centre to be a tier one facility to attract worldwide conventions to Calgary. This will be in addition to Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. I think this will certainly change the nature of tourism in the city. Being able to have a tier one facility is really transformative for a city like Calgary.
We are also continuing to work with Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority on the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Significant work is underway on the design, foundation, and other construction which will create up to 2,500 jobs over the course of the project, which is one of the largest, not only in Ontario and Canada, but also in North America. Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, Canada's economy is strong and growing. Our historic investments in infrastructure are playing a key role by creating lasting economic and social benefits for Canadians in communities of all sizes.
Since we took office, 900,000 jobs have been created across Canada. The unemployment rate has been at its lowest since Statistics Canada began tracking unemployment rates more than 40 years ago.
Budget 2019 demonstrates our continued commitment to investing in infrastructure and our communities. It includes, notably, a one-time municipal top-up of $2.2 billion through the federal Gas Tax Fund to address priorities in municipalities and first nation communities.
There's $60 million in 2018-19 to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to help small communities get the training they need to better manage their infrastructure assets.
There's also $300 million for a new housing supply challenge that will invite municipalities and other stakeholder groups across Canada to propose new ways to break down barriers that limit the creation of new housing.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It's a real pleasure to be in front of you and your colleagues today.
It's my first appearance at this committee, but as a start, I am very delighted to be with all of you and to talk about progress in infrastructure. I think, Madam Chair, that infrastructure touches the lives of Canadians in every community, whether urban or rural.
Good morning and thank you for inviting me, members of the committee.
I'm joined by Kelly Gillis, my very able deputy minister, who has been very active on this file to deliver for Canadians.
I'd like to start by acknowledging the outstanding work of my predecessor, Minister Sohi. Minister Sohi was responsible for this file, and we all know he's truly passionate about infrastructure, almost as much as he is about his hometown of Edmonton. He left a good legacy in the projects and the program. He's been a strong voice for his region, and obviously the province of Alberta, and continues to be in his new portfolio as Minister of Natural Resources.
I would also like to thank my Deputy Minister, and the whole department of Infrastructure Canada for their hard work and dedication over the past three years. Thanks to their continued efforts, we have made enormous progress in delivering modern infrastructure to Canadians everywhere in the country.
Let me give a brief overview. Since I was appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, I was fortunate enough to see first-hand our investments in infrastructure across the country. I recently attended the groundbreaking for the Port Lands flood protection project in Toronto, which will help transform the Port Lands into beautiful new communities that will be surrounded by parks and green spaces. It will also add affordable housing to the Toronto region.
I also visited the Inuvik wind generation project in the Northwest Territories, which will provide an efficient, reliable and clean source of energy for Inuvik residents. I was pleased that this was the first project under the Arctic energy fund, which is helping to move communities in the north from diesel to renewable energy.
I also visited an underground garage in Montreal that will increase the city's fleet of metro cars, improve the frequency of service, and, of course, support the anticipated growth in ridership on Montreal's public transit.
Let me briefly touch on a few successes that we've had so far. Our plan of investing $180 billion over the next decade in infrastructure across the country is truly historic. I am proud of the progress we have made so far and the positive impact it has made on people across the country. The plan is being delivered by 14 federal departments and agencies.
All 70 new programs and initiatives are now launched and more than 32,000 infrastructure projects have already been approved. Nearly all are underway.
Since Minister Sohi's last appearance at this committee in May, I am pleased to note some of the significant milestones we have achieved together. The first one, which I'm very proud of, is the smart cities challenge. Finalists were announced this summer, and the winners will be announced in late spring 2019.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank announced its first investment, which is $1.28 billion in the Réseau express métropolitain in Montreal. With this investment, the bank does exactly what it was intended to do: free up grant funding so that we can build more infrastructure for Canadians.
Despite the fact that very little was done to advance this important project when we formed government, the Gordie Howe international bridge is now finally under way. That is truly historic for Canada. We know the Windsor-Detroit corridor has about 30% of all merchandise trade between Canada and the United States. This project is truly building on our current and future prosperity.
Infrastructure Canada has also signed bilateral agreements with all of the provinces and territories for the next decade. We have already approved funding under these new guidelines for
the Green Line in Calgary, the Millennium Line extension in British Columbia,
and Azur subway trains for Montreal,
and the water treatment system in the Comox Valley Regional District in British Columbia.
Lastly, we also launched the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund. We've already received a number of applications for funding and are currently reviewing them.
I also had the pleasure to meet with my provincial and territorial counterparts in September. One key item we discussed was how to better match the flow of our funding and our processes with the construction season in the sense that we want to make our intake, review and approval process faster and better, and make sure that our processes, whether federal, provincial or territorial, are in line with the construction season. I have impressed on my colleagues that we need to work diligently on that.
I visited several projects where work is well under way, but the claims for reimbursements have not been submitted, for example the Cherry Street water and lake-filling project in Toronto and the Côte-Vertu garage in Montreal, Quebec. To address this issue, we recently launched a pilot project with Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Alberta to test the effectiveness of a progressive billing approach. We know that Canadians want to see funds that match milestones in projects, a “percentage of completion” type of approach, and we have asked our colleagues in the provinces to work with us to achieve that outcome as well.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee members for giving me this opportunity to update you. I hope that together, with each member of the committee, we will be able to build 21st-century infrastructures, modern, durable and green, for all Canadians.
Thank you.
View Churence Rogers Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome, Minister.
I'm going to be sharing my time with my colleague, Mr. Sikand.
Mr. Minister, I want to ask specifically about municipal issues. I come from a municipal background from a very small town as a mayor. I've been involved provincially as president of the municipal association and sitting on the FCM board, the federal board. Specifically, I'd like for you to inform the committee about what some of the things are that you're focused on or doing, in trying to assist small towns in rural Canada with their infrastructure needs, specifically things like water, waste water and other issues and challenges that they deal with every day.
View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'd like to thank the member. I realize we have a lot of colleagues with a municipal background and that's good.
One of the things we have done is to work with FCM very closely in understanding the needs of municipalities.
As Mr. Rogers knows, I come from a riding that has 34 small municipalities as well, so I really understand the need. That's why I was saying that infrastructure means different things to different people. If you're in an urban area, like in the question before, I can talk about Montreal and the Champlain Bridge, or I can talk about things happening in B.C. or in Alberta in Calgary or Edmonton, but obviously when you're talking, for example, about Newfoundland and Labrador and smaller communities, that's why we tailored part of our program. The $33 billion and the agreements, the integrated bilateral agreements, have a component that deals with rural and northern communities.
The reason was that we understood that for smaller communities you needed more flexibility, that in smaller communities sometimes what would be needed, for example, could be an Internet connection to change the lives of people.
I am very happy to be engaging. I was just, for example, in the province next to yours, in New Brunswick, and I met, for example, I think 30 small municipality mayors. I did the same thing in Alberta the last time I was there. I think it's the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
I like to do that because, first of all, it's about providing information. Second, it's about engaging with them about their needs and, third, I would say, it's about making sure that our programs are tailored to fit the purposes of small communities.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
And thank you, Minister, for being here, and all of your staff.
I'm glad you mentioned a couple of things in your opening comments, because I'm going to refer to your address on September 20 to the G7 ministerial meeting.
In those comments, you said that:
When it comes to man-made pollution in the world’s oceans, Canada is also taking action. As a federal government, we are moving towards making our operations low-carbon, resilient and green. As a country, we are moving toward zero plastic waste by keeping plastic out of oceans and landfills.
One thing you don't mention in this, regarding keeping our oceans clean, is sewage dumps and outflows. Those have been identified as significant issues on the west coast and the east coast as well. I can quote some numbers out of the St. Lawrence River over the last few years, but I think you're probably well aware of those. Why is that not mentioned in any statement or plan?
View Jonathan Wilkinson Profile
Lib. (BC)
It's a very good question.
Let me start by saying that the regulations with respect to waste water treatment in Canada are the purview of the Minister of the Environment, rather than the Minister of Fisheries. I would say that it is an important issue, it is one that in Canada we do need to address.
As you will be aware, there is a schedule for all of the major waste-water treatment facilities that are not currently in compliance with doing secondary treatment, to be in compliance by either 2020 or 2030.
We have allocated significant green infrastructure funding to accelerating that process. There is a new waste-water treatment plant being built in my riding, in North Vancouver. There is a new waste-water treatment plant being built in Victoria, which presently has no waste-water treatment, which is appalling. There are a number of similar facilities being constructed across this country.
It's a very important issue and it's one that we definitely need to address.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank the department officials for being here today.
Data is everything—data and science. Mel Arnold asked a question about municipal waste. The minister responded by saying that's an environmental concern. That goes to that committee.
About a month ago, I was substituting in the environment committee and I asked the same question. They said they don't have any data on that. Which department collects data on municipal waste and the toxins in that municipal waste if it's not your department?
Catherine Blewett
View Catherine Blewett Profile
Catherine Blewett
2018-11-20 16:56
It actually is Environment and Climate Change Canada. When substances move into the water course, ECCC has that.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Why isn't that data available to us? I asked that question in the environment committee and they had no data.
Catherine Blewett
View Catherine Blewett Profile
Catherine Blewett
2018-11-20 16:57
I'm happy to follow up with my departmental colleagues. If that's useful, I'm happy to do it.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay, thank you.
Something else that's been lightly touched on, but I don't think we've looked at closely enough, is the impact of waste-water discharges around some of the larger communities. Have those been a concern to the first nations as well?
Ray Harris
View Ray Harris Profile
Ray Harris
2018-11-01 12:05
They're very much of concern.
Victoria as a city may be working on a treatment centre for their sewage disposal this year, but up until now, since the beginning of Victoria, it has been discharged. There's no treatment centre for the sewage disposal. Some other places, such as the little town of Ladysmith, do the same thing. There's very little treatment, and they discharge. There are three areas on the Fraser River in the Vancouver area that are causing concern about what is being discharged. We don't really know.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
A lot of municipalities dump raw sewage into our waterways. A lot of times, things are dumped into our system that shouldn't be.
What is the monitoring process for municipalities? Obviously, it's a huge concern for a lot of community members when we have raw sewage going into the waterways. Who does the testing for that? Is there a record of whether the toxins are increasing as a result of that? Can I go somewhere on the Internet and find out information? A lot of times information is not readily available to an average Canadian, or we don't know where to look.
Heather McCready
View Heather McCready Profile
Heather McCready
2018-10-04 16:52
I'll start from an enforcement perspective.
We may have to come back to you with that specific information, because that would come from our science and technology branch and we don't have anyone here with us. We can come back to you in writing if you would appreciate that.
Regarding municipal waste water, my program actually does quite a bit of work in that area outside the scope of this audit.
The way I look at our program, I'm not specifically looking at CEPA toxics or the Fisheries Act or mining. It's about enforcement as a whole and how to solve problems with the tools we have.
For example, we actually use the Fisheries Act to address issues with pesticides. That handles toxic things, but not in a way that this audit really captured.
You mentioned waste water, which is a significant area of work for us. We handle that with a regulation under the Fisheries Act called the wastewater systems effluent regulations. That is an area where we are doing more and more work. There are lots of inspections across the country, and we've put a national approach in place. Actually, one of our officers recently won an award from the Community of Federal Regulators for his unique approach in dealing with the province of Newfoundland.
Dealing with municipalities is a very different situation from dealing with a multinational mining corporation. We understand that with waste water, we're talking about a need for quite substantial infrastructure investments in some cases. It's a problem that doesn't necessarily have an enforcement solution, but enforcement can be an important part of it. We do quite a lot of inspections. Doing those inspections, we are able to identify which municipalities are having issues and are dumping the most raw sewage into the environment. Then we can prioritize our enforcement action to focus on those areas.
We end up working quite collaboratively with municipalities. Sometimes we'll issue an enforcement action to a municipality. That seems uncollaborative, but most of them understand that they are then able to use that to speak with provincial authorities or federal authorities to bump them up in the queue for getting potential funding for infrastructure investment. We can actually be a part of the solution. That's an area of key focus for us.
In terms of where you can go to get that information, we would have to come back to you in writing, potentially. Unless Gwen can add....
Gwen Goodier
View Gwen Goodier Profile
Gwen Goodier
2018-10-04 16:54
Under the wastewater effluent system regulations, municipal governments do have to do environmental effects monitoring, and they provide that data to the department. To my knowledge we don't make it public, but we do collect information to make sure that they're meeting the requirements under the regulations.
You're right to point out waste water as a source of contaminants. That's why those regulations were put in place. They spell out the timelines for municipal governments to make sure that their waste water treatment systems are dealing with the waste water to bring it to at least a secondary treatment level, which removes between 90% to 95% of contaminants.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
I have a quick question. Why isn't that data regarding municipal waste water available to us—to this committee? Could it be?
Gwen Goodier
View Gwen Goodier Profile
Gwen Goodier
2018-10-04 16:55
I think I'd want to check with the folks who are responsible for those regulations and get back to you with an answer to that.
Mr. David Yurdiga: Thank you.
Julie Gelfand
View Julie Gelfand Profile
Julie Gelfand
2018-10-04 16:56
Could I just say that the waste water regulations are fairly new? We have not audited them yet because we usually give new regulations some time to get into gear. We will probably do an audit.
We did do an audit on infrastructure related to the gas tax fund. We did mention the issue of the waste water regulations, but we haven't actually done an audit on it yet. We're giving it a bit of time. Then we'll go in.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to meet with the committee again, this afternoon, acknowledging that we come together on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
With me today are associate deputy minister Sony Perron and chief, finances, results and delivery officer Paul Thoppil.
I have abbreviated my comments significantly, given the time constraints that we have, but I did want to say that I am pleased to be here with you to discuss the main estimates that were tabled on April 16. For our new Department of Indigenous Services, they represent spending of $9.3 billion, and you will note that investments made in budget 2018 are reflected in the estimates of the Treasury Board Secretariat.
Before moving to main estimates, I want to take a moment to remind colleagues about the significant investments being made under budget 2018. You will notice, for example, that we have invested $1.4 billion in new funding over the next six years for the very important issue of indigenous child welfare.
In the matter of housing, there is funding of $600 million over three years for first nations housing on reserve, $500 million over 10 years for Métis nation housing, $400 million over 10 years for the Inuit-led housing plan, as well as other important investments such as $27.5 million over five years to support the elimination of tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat.
I am pleased that important areas like water and wastewater infrastructure, child and family services, and health care are continuing to receive much-needed investments through the main estimates.
It should be noted that there are always more needs than what is reflected through these estimates, and I want to affirm that our government is committed to fully addressing the unacceptable socio-economic gaps that exist between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous Canadians. After I'd made a comment like that, a first nations elder once said to me, words do not feed a table. His comment was that we need more than words; we need action, including the resources to accomplish the ambitious goals we have. I'm pleased to say that these goals are being well resourced.
Nine months ago we started a transformation process with the dissolution of the previous Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and with the creation of two new departments. There are driving forces behind this work of transformation that you're aware of, which are, as I've said, closing the socio-economic gaps that exist, and also supporting and affirming the rights of indigenous peoples, including the right to self-determination as an essential part of the work of our government.
In the last nine months, we have focused on five particular priority areas, which are child well-being, education, health, infrastructure, and economic prosperity, and these appropriations for the main estimates that we are discussing today support these priorities. I was going to take time to highlight a bit about each of those priority areas, but I will dispense with that and simply say that I believe that the socio-economic gaps that exist in indigenous communities are shameful, but they are also solvable. As we work to support and affirm the recognition of indigenous rights and likewise invest wisely in the work of reconciliation, I believe that we will make great progress in this regard.
I am very happy to take your questions.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
We have enacted a comprehensive plan for the economy through measures such as middle-class tax cuts, the Canada child benefit, and investments in infrastructure. These infrastructure investments are supporting thousands of new jobs in construction, manufacturing, transportation, engineering, and professional services.
In the Montreal area, the construction of the new Champlain Bridge is creating thousands of jobs. In December, when it is scheduled to be open to traffic, the bridge will make it easier for Montrealers who travel back and forth from the south shore. Likewise, the Gordie Howe international bridge will provide an additional crossing at one of the busiest points of the Canada-U.S. border, and the expansion of this critical trade route will improve connection between Windsor and Detroit.
Let me dig into how this plan has already delivered concrete results for Canadians after only two years. I'm proud to report that more than 20,000 projects are either in progress or already completed. These investments are improving public transit systems. In British Columbia, faster, more frequent bus service is being rolled out to all metro Vancouver communities. More than 500 bus drivers are being hired in the largest recruitment drive since the 2010 Olympics.
Our government's investment is also improving water treatment plants across the country. This means cleaner and safer drinking water for more Canadians, regardless of where they live.
Our investments are expanding the number of affordable rental housing units while renewing the existing stock. That means more Canadian families will have access to a safe and affordable place to call home and indigenous communities will have access to better housing.
Through the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, which we just launched last week, our investment will better protect communities from the potential impacts of a changing climate. That means fewer communities will have their lives disrupted by extreme events such as flooding and fires.
Through the smart cities challenge, we're encouraging communities to use data and connected technologies to improve the quality of life for all Canadians. For the first round, we received 130 applications representing communities from every province and territory.
I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate our progress on bilateral agreements and why they are so important. Stable and predictable funding is what allows our partners to better manage the existing assets while planning for new infrastructure projects. To date, I have signed eight bilateral agreements, and we're working hard to finalize the remaining five.
One of the projects these agreements are funding is Calgary's green line LRT route. This new line is expected to support an estimated 20,000 jobs during the design and construction phase, and an additional 400 long-term jobs will support its operation and maintenance when the new line is up and running. Once in service, the green line will provide transit riders in the city's north and southeast communities with a direct route to the downtown core. It will also improve connections to hospitals, employment centres, and community centres.
In Edmonton, improvements to the busy railway crossing at 50 Street and the CP rail will reduce congestion and travel time for drivers. It will also give businesses in the area a more efficient way to move their products around Edmonton. During the construction phase, this project is expected to create 900 well-paying jobs.
My colleagues, the investments I have outlined today are already paying dividends for Canadians, and they will continue to do so for generations to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you, and I'm happy to take questions.
Mike Savage
View Mike Savage Profile
Mike Savage
2018-05-09 16:46
Madam Chair and committee members, it's a great pleasure to be here to share a little bit about Halifax and talk about what infrastructure funding means to our municipality.
Halifax is well known as the urban centre of Atlantic Canada. What people sometimes forget is that we're the largest rural municipality in Nova Scotia. In fact, if you look at a map, at the physical size of HRM, you could fit Montreal, London, St. John's, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, and Hamilton inside the physical boundary of the region. Nobody knows that better than Sean Fraser, whose riding of Central Nova covers a lot of that area.
We're the centre of economic growth in Nova Scotia. We account for 10% of the land size, 46% of the population, but almost 60% of the GDP. That's important, because we have the complex needs of a growing urban centre but also the challenges and opportunities that come with a large rural community.
You've all heard the statistic that 60% of the infrastructure is the responsibility of municipalities, but we collect less than 10% of the taxes, so we have to be creative in order to reach our goals, and we need strong partnerships.
Halifax has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the country in the last number of years. You can see from the changing skyline the difference from 2014 to 2017 in how the city looks. We have ambitious goals. We have an economic growth strategy, which we started a couple of years ago, that sees us wanting to raise our population from 418,000 to 550,000 by 2031. We're making progress. We've grown by 8,000 and 7,000 in the last two years.
The most exciting statistic is that we're keeping and attracting young people here, sort of going against the trend of Atlantic Canada. Throughout the first nine years of the 2000s, we were losing people in that key demographic of 25 to 39, and now, dramatically, we're keeping them. We're rewriting the narrative of kids going down the road for opportunity.
We continue to open our doors to people from around the world, and the face of our city is changing dramatically. International immigration accounts for over half of our growth. I'm excited, pleased, and proud to say that our city welcomed over 1,000 Syrian refugees. That's my mayoral boasting.
On infrastructure specifically, public infrastructure is the foundation on which our communities are built, and infrastructure investment publicly spurs private investment. Building and maintaining local infrastructure—the roads, the bridges, the water systems—provides a clear and measurable return on investment. Predictable federal funding, as outlined in these bilateral agreements, will ensure that we and other communities, like that of my colleague from Dieppe, continue to achieve real, sustainable growth.
The most dynamic cities in the world have effective public transit systems. Modern and efficient public transit increases productivity, cuts gridlock, connects people, services, and businesses to one another, and improves the health of citizens. Public transit infrastructure allows us to better move people in and out and strengthens our transit options. For us, a big deal is commuter rail. It's an option being looked at by our regional council. If we can establish a commuter rail that's efficient and cost-effective, it will be an incredibly valuable asset for us and for the future of our city, working with partners like VIA and CN. We're also looking at bus rapid transit.
I also want to highlight water. Investment in water, waste water, and stormwater infrastructure is a national issue. These are systems that many of us take for granted. Upgrades to waste water are some of the most pressing and expensive needs for our municipality. We have some of the oldest pipes in Canada. We have a $2.6-billion integrated resource plan on water alone within HRM that we need to fulfill. Some of the pipes we've recently dug up in the city go back to 1856 and 1862.
Halifax is a coastal city. It's particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially sea level and storm surge. Those are absolutely critical investments. We're looking at innovative ways to combat climate change, including plans to incorporate district energy into major new projects in the city.
Private sector development comes after public sector investment. It's because of sound urban planning and big public investments that we have things in Halifax that are making a big difference.
Successful cities are built through strong partnerships between all orders of government and the private sector, and I look forward to continuing to work with you and my colleagues across the country as we build the cities of tomorrow.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Sal Iannello
View Sal Iannello Profile
Sal Iannello
2017-11-30 15:34
Good afternoon.
The City of Welland, as is the case with many old communities, has lead water issues in a small portion of the city. Our own testing program showed that 10% of the samples exceeded provincial guidelines.
In addition to the city's own replacement program to replace lead services on the city side, in 2008 the city initiated a program to help fund homeowners wishing to replace their private side by budgeting $50,000 to provide fifty-fifty cost sharing to a maximum of $750.
In 2010 the City of Welland and the Niagara Region, which provides the treated water to the city's distribution system, were required to submit a corrosion control plan to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Submitted in November 2010, the plan highlighted that there were still 1,346 known lead service lines in the distribution system; 612 of the lead services were on the city-owned side, and 734 of the lead services were privately owned.
The use of treatment additives was considered in the plan, but the preferred solution was to replace all of the lead services in the system. Presently there remain 296 known lead services on the city-owned portion and 661 on the privately owned side of the services.
The city estimates that it would take about three to four years to replace all of the remaining known city-owned lead services as we conduct our replacement programs. While the city has removed over 51% of the known lead services on the city side, the private side has not seen similar success, as approximately only 10% of the known lead services have been replaced on the private portion. This low uptake is despite the city's efforts to increase—
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you.
My next question is likely for the municipal officials.
Most major municipalities treat the water before it goes into the drinking water system. When that is so, the water contains no lead when it comes out of the filtration plant.
If owners of private systems do not change their part of their pipes and they let the water flow from the taps in the bathroom, from the shower, or from anywhere else in the house, they are returning water containing lead to the public system. But over the years, have you seen a drop in the concentration of lead in the water to be treated before it is put into the drinking water system?
Mr. Craik, can you answer that?
Stephen Craik
View Stephen Craik Profile
Stephen Craik
2017-11-30 16:08
Just on the question of whether water returning to our treatment plant has lead in it, our supply is a river supply, so upstream of us there is very little development. The water that comes into our treatment plant is generally fairly low in lead and not impacted by our discharges from the waste-water plant. Our waste-water treatment plant discharges further downstream. That's often the case for utilities—not always, but often. Our waste water could become another municipality's source water; however, I think the volumes of lead from the homes that we have would probably not add substantially to the waste-water lead burden to the next municipality. Really, the source of the lead is the lead service lines and the plumbing materials within the buildings.
Sal Iannello
View Sal Iannello Profile
Sal Iannello
2017-11-30 16:09
Yes, I would have to agree with what has been said. Basically, here in Ontario, at least in our area, we are on the Great Lakes. All our water is from the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes water does not have any initial lead in it of any measurable amount. The water leaving the plant, again, does not have any real measurable amount of lead in it. Almost all of the lead is taken up from the services and some older fixtures, which have lead components.
I was in charge of the waste-water system for quite some time in the region of Niagara, too. It's not really a number that is of any concern, what comes into the plant or what the leaves the plant. Again, once it gets back into Lake Ontario—although many other municipalities are using the water again and again—there, it's negligible. Even in our case, the Great Lakes, a lot of other municipalities put their waste water into Lake Erie and, as I said, the lead in our source water is negligible, and the effect that we have is negligible also.
View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
You mentioned that point-of-use filters are made available to people. Would you speculate that you then have a problem with people replacing the filters as they should? How long do the filters normally last and how costly are they to replace?
Stephen Craik
View Stephen Craik Profile
Stephen Craik
2017-11-30 16:20
That's a great question. In our case, we've been offering our customers the filter device. It comes with a filter cartridge in place. It mounts on the faucet. It's a very small device with limited flow capacity. It lasts for, depending on the model, three months or 90 days, and then the cartridges have to be replaced. We've been offering the filter to our customers with the understanding that they will replace the cartridges, so they take the responsibility for the cartridges. We're sharing that responsibility.
We are also seeing those filters as a stopgap measure. We don't really see those as a permanent long-term solution to the lead issue in any given home.
View Gagan Sikand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My question is for Stephen or Marie-Claude, but anyone can please correct me while I go through this.
We've had a few witnesses come through. The way I see this, the main problem, aside from obviously the lead, is the fact that homeowners can't really afford to replace their portion of the service line. In order to remove as much lead as possible, you need a full replacement. The partial replacement just doesn't cut it.
It's difficult to address this from a government standpoint because the division of powers, if you will, make it a bit complicated. I think the real solution here or the most viable solution is actually the last point of contact, because even if you do the full replacement, there are corrosive elements that still leak into the water.
Stephen, you're saying that a filter probably isn't the most effective way, but we've seen in the United States that they actually do mandate that in some places. Isn't the best solution actually just to implement filters?
Stephen Craik
View Stephen Craik Profile
Stephen Craik
2017-11-30 16:34
As a water utility, I would say I probably have a philosophical difference with that. The problem with filters is that they have to be maintained by homeowners in the long term. Water utilities and municipalities are not really equipped to maintain filter systems within buildings. There are all sorts of different filters that do all sorts of different things at all sorts of different costs and prices to maintain. Doing that would become fairly complex. I'm not sure in the long term that would be successful.
From a water utility point of view, we would like to be able to provide water up to the service connection and up to the tap that is safe to drink, which includes being, as Dr. Prévost noted, not too corrosive. We haven't talked a lot about corrosion control today. Another approach a utility can use is to adjust their water chemistry to make the water the least corrosive possible.
I didn't mention it yet but we are looking at the addition of phosphate in Edmonton to further reduce lead levels all around in combination with aggressive lead service line replacement. That's the strategy we would tend to use. Then hopefully you're just left with a few hot spots here and there that might be dealt within the buildings themselves.
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2017-11-23 16:15
Mr. Gagnon, you spoke about treatment with phosphorus. I wanted to dive down into that. That's about treatment at municipal water plants at the source. In terms of treating with phosphorus, I guess what I'm getting at is that what comes out of the tap usually goes back into the waste-water system, so we have phosphorus and blue-green algae, which is a whole other discussion for a different day.
Our waste-water plants in Ontario are monitored. I think the Ontario government in the next year or two is going to lower phosphates that are emitted from plants and will know what the rate is of each Ontario waste-water plant, so they might have to create a different system.
Does this type of treatment you're talking about dissolve in the system, or does it go back to the waste-water plant? That would endanger our waste-water plant and, again, cause blue-green algae in the system.
Graham Gagnon
View Graham Gagnon Profile
Graham Gagnon
2017-11-23 16:16
You've hit the nail on the head with regard to the problem utilities face. I mentioned Regina, and they are very reluctant to add phosphate for this very reason. They discharge their waste water into a river system. Blue-green algae would be a top priority for them.
Other chemicals could be carbonates or silicates, or there could be pH adjustment, which Ottawa does. They adjust their pH to a much higher level. Each utility would have almost a unique, tailored program. The phosphate issue is an important one for many utilities in Ontario and certainly in western Canada.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
Thank you so much, Madam Chair.
I have a bit of a sore throat, so I hope you can understand me.
I've been asked to appear today to speak about Infrastructure Canada's main estimates and what my department is doing to deliver on the government's commitment to invest in Canadian communities through its long-term infrastructure plan, called “investing in Canada”.
Madam Chair, you introduced some of my staff members. I'm also joined by Glenn Campbell, executive director of the Canada infrastructure bank transition office, as well as my parliamentary secretary, Marc Miller.
Colleagues, the Government of Canada has an ambitious plan and vision for infrastructure funding in Canada.
We have been making great progress in delivering projects. Since November 2015, we have approved over 2,200 projects across the country, with a total value of $20 billion. These projects are now rolling out in communities large and small.
These investments are making real, tangible impacts in Canadian communities. This means that 864 public transit projects have been approved to date, including over 200 projects that will make public transit more accessible for people with disabilities. The investments made will expand 132 transit systems across the country and help communities acquire more than 1,000 new buses, among other improvements. Together, these investments will deliver faster, more reliable service, and will help reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
To date, 908 projects under the clean water and wastewater fund have been approved. These investments will give more Canadians access to clean drinking water and will reduce pollution in our lakes and rivers.
Over 2,000 projects to retrofit or renovate social housing have been approved to date, helping improve energy and water efficiency in almost 90,000 existing social housing units.
There are 182 arts and heritage facilities in 109 communities that are being improved.
Nearly 6,000 housing units on reserve have been built, renovated, or planned, along with 125 projects aimed at building and improving schools.
There are 251 projects under the post-secondary institutions investment fund that are under way to enhance and modernize research and commercialization facilities on Canadian campuses.
With budget 2017, we have formalized the commitment we made through the fall economic statement. The budget showed how we will invest more than $180 billion in federal funding over 12 years. It showed how these investments will create long-term economic growth; build inclusive, sustainable communities; and support a low-carbon, green economy.
Our plan focuses on five key areas: public transit; green infrastructure; social infrastructure; trade and transportation infrastructure; and rural and northern communities infrastructure. It also features two new initiatives, the smart cities challenge and the Canada infrastructure bank.
The Canada infrastructure bank will be responsible for investing at least $35 billion over 11 years, using loans, loan guarantees, and equity investments, and attracting private capital for public infrastructure. The bank's funds will be over and above the commitment we made to double infrastructure funding. Most importantly, it will offer our funding partners a new way to help meet their pressing infrastructure needs.
The second initiative I mentioned is the smart cities challenge.
It is vital that our communities are at their best, that they be responsive to the needs of citizens and be nimble in adapting to the increasingly complex challenges they face. Smart cities will do this by being better connected to their citizens, by using data to make decisions that impact quality of life, by helping to drive and attract innovation, and by fostering positive change in our communities through social inclusion.
Budget 2017 announced $300 million for the smart cities challenge to “encourage cities to adopt new and innovative approaches to city-building” by focusing on innovative, measurable, and outcomes-based solutions. And most importantly, it will be delivered it in full partnership with all sectors of Canadian society while drawing on similar experiences in the United States, India, and other countries. We will be sharing more detailed information about the smart cities challenge in the coming weeks and months.
I would now like to address the department's main estimates and speak briefly about how our funding flows to our partners.
Infrastructure Canada's total authorities for the new fiscal year are $7 billion, which is up $3.1 billion dollars from what was requested last year. On that note, the authorities in the main estimates do not include funding for the new phase of our program, but they do include nearly $2.7 billion in contribution funding for the public transit infrastructure fund and the clean water and wastewater fund. It is through these two programs that we have announced over 1,760 projects to date.
At my previous appearance, some of you raised concerns about funds flowing to projects across the country. It is important to note, however, that Infrastructure Canada's funding matches the pace at which our partners submit claims for reimbursements. Most partners submit claims throughout the life of the project, although some wait until the project has been completed. When projects are approved, funding is available for reimbursement even if projects are delayed or funds are not spent as forecast.
Through budget 2017, the Government of Canada is showing how it will support Canadian communities in the years to come. Infrastructure has a great many challenge ahead of us. We are ready to meet them and to support other communities to build the infrastructure they need.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2016-11-17 16:14
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses, the Canadian Cancer Society, Melody and Phil, and the ladies from the Native Women's Association.
My question is to Melody, my neighbour to the north. I've been watching with interest over the years what's taking place in your community. I've been there a number of times. It's a beautiful part of the world.
Unfortunately, I've lived up river from you on the Peace, and I now live on the McLeod, which dumps into the Athabaska, which flows to your community. In many communities, a lot of their sewage, after being treated, goes into the main river streams. It ends up in the Athabaska, ends up in the Peace, and you guys are at the end of the line.
Phil, I wonder whether research is being done on the water systems there. Environment Canada is the lead agency that allows the dumping into the river systems. We even see it on the Great Lakes here. There was a very recent case about two months ago.
Are there readings being done on the river that you know of, to look at the levels and how they're being affected further up, especially at the end of the system?
Phil Thomas
View Phil Thomas Profile
Phil Thomas
2016-11-17 16:15
Thank you for your question.
Yes, Environment Canada is involved in monitoring the impacts of sewage effluents. I guess some of the main concerns with sewage effluents are about antibiotics, birth controls, and these kinds of endocrine disrupters, compounds that will disrupt the endocrine system or the hormone system.
They do monitoring. Usually sewage effluent is more of a localized problem. Within 50 kilometres of a source, you'll detect a signal, but soon after that.... They say that the solution to pollution is dilution. By the time it reaches the Peace–Athabasca Delta, those levels are near background levels, so it's not a huge concern.
Lisa Holmes
View Lisa Holmes Profile
Lisa Holmes
2016-10-04 10:28
It is improved regulation, and I'll give you four bullet points. The CRTC needs to make broadband a basic service.
The marijuana conversation needs to have very good consultation with municipalities. We need very clear regulations in regard to the homegrown aspect of its distribution and consumption because it impacts us at the local level more than anyone.
We need to harmonize the federal and provincial water and waste-water standards because right now, we report to two different levels of government. It would be great if we could save the money and the time and just have harmonized standards in that area.
Alberta needs a regional policy for temporary foreign workers like Quebec has. Our hiring is very unique and we have our own unique circumstances, as you were saying. We need our own policy. Those cost no money.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you. It's a pleasure once again to join you here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. We're also pleased to have Mr. Yurdiga here with us in that we missed you last time, and we hope that everything is progressing in your territory.
As the chair said, I am joined again today by our deputy minister, Hélène Laurendeau, and our chief financial officer, Paul Thoppil.
We want to thank the committee for your work to date, particularly for the ongoing study on suicide among indigenous people and communities. I am pleased to let you know that the parliamentary secretary will be travelling to Nunatsiavut in July to be with ITK as they release their youth suicide strategy.
As you know, we feel that we're beginning to address the most urgent aspects of this crisis, but I know that your work will enhance and inform the government's response to the ongoing tragedy. From my point of view as the minister of the social determinants of health, our job is prevention and providing hope.
Here we go again. We're here to discuss the supplementary estimates (A) for Indigenous and Northern Affairs. As I mentioned last time, we are more than aware that the current estimates process is arcane and that it is particularly challenging for this committee to do the essential job of holding the government to account for proposed spending.
The President of the Treasury Board has been clear in his commitment to work on this problem so that the government can provide Parliament with more timely and accurate information.
In the meantime, I am happy for this opportunity to be here to answer your questions and provide you with as much information as possible so you can do your jobs effectively.
As you can see, the estimates reflect a net increase of $1.2 billion in appropriations for our department, which brings the total appropriations for INAC for 2016-17 to $8.8 billion. That funding, once approved, will target investments in many important areas, which I'll highlight later in my remarks and through your questions.
I want to make clear that these supplementary estimates are only the first of several, which will account for both the additional funding flowing through budget 2016 and the new funding needs that will be identified throughout the year. Your scrutiny is paramount to this process, and as more of the budget and other new funding is reflected and approved, I look forward to returning for future estimates to ensure full transparency.
These, the first supplementary estimates of the fiscal year, primarily reflect infrastructure stimulus as identified in Budget 2016.
However, I want to make it clear up front that just because budget commitments are not reflected in these estimates, it does not mean that no new money is flowing. Where there are existing authorities, the department can accommodate new spending using existing funding in anticipation of future estimates being approved, because they were in the budget. This is the case for the remaining budget 2016 commitments not included in the supplementary estimates (A).
For instance, by July 1, 2016, we will have advanced $4.1 million in new funding from budget 2016 to the recipients for the existing network of 41 emergency shelters for victims of violence. That money is flowing even though you don't see it in the supplementary estimates (A).
As well, in anticipation of future estimates, we have advanced approximately $28.4 million to first nations child and family services program providers for initiatives such as the enhanced prevention approach, which we know is working. We've been able to put it into the provinces and territories that didn't previously have it.
We have no doubt that some of your questions will be about these estimates, but some will be about what's not in them.
I would, however, like to use the rest of my time today to highlight some of the key initiatives that are included in these estimates.
The $1.2 billion of funding sought in these supplementary estimates is primarily for investments in water, waste water, waste management, affordable housing and social infrastructure, education infrastructure, and settlement of outstanding claims. As we have discussed here before, all Canadians expect access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water, and first nations should expect no less. Frankly, that is one of the most well-received parts of the Minister of Finance's speeches. Everybody gets this.
Through these estimates, INAC will access $308.5 million to support first nations in the operation, maintenance, and construction of water and waste-water facilities, as well as waste-water management infrastructure. The $1.8 million over five years is earmarked for on-reserve water and waste-water infrastructure, and is part of our commitment to end the boil water advisories on reserves within five years.
Housing is also a fundamental need. All Canadians should have access to a secure home. I think we've all been in those homes on reserve. The conditions are, quite frankly, a disgrace.
To address urgent housing needs on reserve, Budget 2016 proposed to provide $554.3 million over two years for first nation housing.
Through these estimates, INAC will access $206.6 million to address the immediate and urgent housing needs on reserve and the renovation and retrofit of existing housing on reserve.
Cultural and recreational infrastructure can provide an important focal point for community activities, contributing to social cohesion and, most importantly, a safe place for youth. As you know, that wasn't previously funded.
This infrastructure connects individuals and families to their communities, and contributes to the healthy development of young people.
These estimates will also provide $34.4 million of budget 2016's $76.9 million to support the construction of cultural and recreational infrastructure on reserve.
Budget 2016 funding will also support investments in a range of complementary infrastructure needs, such as roads, bridges, energy systems, and broadband connectivity.
This will help communities as they develop and grow, and support significant improvements to the environment and quality of life of first nation communities.
Through these estimates, $104.3 million will be accessed to support the construction of public infrastructure on reserve. I'm also pleased that an additional $96.1 million will be accessed to support the first nations enhanced education infrastructure fund and the building and refurbishing of first nations schools.
As you know, the amount for school infrastructure is actually twice what was in the platform, and this was viewed as very urgent. It means safe and healthy places in which students can learn and achieve academic success, along with the funding for the maintenance of these facilities.
I'm also pleased that the funding will help reduce the environmental and human health risks posed by federal contaminated sites. Through these estimates, $199.9 million will be accessed for the assessment, management, and remediation of these sites. This funding will contribute to the wide range of tools to reduce the risks, including treating contaminated water and soil and removing hazardous waste.
This has been a priority of the department. When there have been extra funds at the end of the year, this has been one of the areas where we do it. Certainly we heard this week from the chief of Attawapiskat that being able to rebuild where the school burnt down was very important, so that becomes an urgent contaminated site where we will be able to progress in that community.
As you can see, there are many other important investments as well, including waste disposal, claims and negotiations, and funding for northern priorities, such as housing and a Canadian high Arctic research station.
The funding will contribute to a more prosperous Canada and contribute significantly to closing the social and economic gaps for first nations, Inuit, Métis, and northerners.
But these estimates are just the beginning.
I very much look forward to taking your questions today as well as returning for future estimate appearances.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank the minister for taking questions from us today. Many of our questions are difficult to answer because it's such a broad spectrum.
Budget 2016 proposes to invest about $2 billion over five years specifically towards improving on-reserve water and waste water. My first question is in reference to on-reserve potable water. Has a list of priority projects been established, and how many communities will see construction starts this year?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's a great question.
I have to tell you that this is the most fun I've had in the last two days. For all of the places that have asked or that need them, we have a beautiful diagram showing the ones that are already being built marked with a hammer, as well as the ones that are at least in the planning phase. For some of these communities, it takes a feasibility study. In the places that really have no soil, what are we going to do?
I'm happy to share this with you. It came late-breaking, since the deck was distributed. The way in which the infrastructure people are working with first nations communities so that they can get the water structures they want is really impressive.
Also, what happens is that in certain communities, one proper water plant will relieve the community of four, five, or six boil water advisories, because each of the pumphouses is on a boil water advisory now. With a decent plant and distribution system, you can get rid of six boil water advisories in one community. We're working on needs, but we're also listening to the technical advisers who advise first nations in some of the regions and identifying which first nations have the greatest need.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
What is the current status of the circuit rider training program, given that the first nations water and waste-water action plan appears not to have been renewed or included?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
It has been expanded, actually. We know that just building the plant doesn't work if nobody can run it. Also, it means that the communities are now learning to pick something that is workable and repairable, something that their people can be trained up to use, because they want jobs for their people and they don't want people having to come from other places.
We're also working on remote monitoring systems. In certain places they can now electronically monitor the systems at a distance and then train the people how to fix whatever problem has been identified.
I think, then, that there is really good work being done on training. If you listen to one of those young men or women, as water plant operators, they're so proud. They can talk to you about E. coli or about emergency management. There is pride in keeping their communities healthy, and we know that the training has to be there.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Hélène Laurendeau
View Hélène Laurendeau Profile
Hélène Laurendeau
2016-06-16 16:29
We're fleshing out the program on emergency management, but it's also to support, as the minister said, the capacity for things like water. It's to be able to provide the training in the first nations communities, but on a rotational basis. We added $3 million, and if we need to add more, we're going to add more.
View David Yurdiga Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. I preferred your first response.
Okay, here's a quick one: what percentage of water treatment projects deals with upgrades versus total replacement?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
That is done case by case, based on what the community needs. I guess it was in Neskantaga that the old system had been patched up for as long as it could be. Our regional offices are to have those conversations with the communities. The first one on my list says, “repairs to leaks in water system”. That is being fixed now, so it gets the hammer. There's—
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
—Kitigan Zibi, which gets 34 flawed expansions, so that's under way. It depends on which community and what the community knows it needs.
Yazmine Laroche
View Yazmine Laroche Profile
Yazmine Laroche
2016-05-30 15:51
Thank you, Helena.
Thank you all for inviting us to be here with you again. It is a pleasure to see you.
I am accompanied by our assistant deputy minister for corporate services and chief financial officer, Darlene Boileau, who will be more than happy to answer the tough questions.
We have been invited here today to speak to you about Infrastructure Canada's supplementary estimates (A), which were tabled in the House of Commons on May 10.
Before I get into the details of the funds that we are requesting, I would like to talk a bit about the work that the department has done to date, the work that will be supported by the funds we are requesting.
During his last appearance, Minister Sohi spoke about the Government of Canada's commitment to doubling federal investment in public infrastructure in the next decade. Over the next 10 years, that represents $60 billion in new investments focused on public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure.
In budget 2016, the federal government announced that phase one of its infrastructure plan would provide immediate investments of $11.9 billion, including: $3.4 billion to upgrade and improve public transit systems; $5 billion for investments in water, waste-water, and green infrastructure projects; and $3.4 billion for social infrastructure, including affordable housing, early learning and child care, cultural and recreational infrastructure, and community health care facilities in first nation communities.
As a department, we moved quickly to get as much information as we could to our provincial, territorial, municipal, and stakeholder partners.
In keeping with the department's commitment to transparency, the letters that Minister Sohi sent to his provincial and territorial counterparts, which provided details of the funding that will be allocated to the public transit infrastructure fund and to the clean water and waste water fund, were published on the Infrastructure Canada website.
More recently, on May 4, Minister Sohi reached out to members of Parliament and asked them to be involved in the development of phase two, which is the long-term infrastructure strategy. The minister has asked parliamentarians to indicate to him what areas of investment are important to their communities and to their constituents. This will help identify what areas require federal involvement, and what kind of funding or programming needs to be developed. This feedback will be invaluable in designing the longer-term infrastructure plan.
Returning to phase 1, you can see that the department has requested additional funding of close to $1.4 billion in the supplementary estimates (A). This funding will be allocated to our programs as follows: $844 million for the public transit infrastructure fund; close to $500 million for the clean and waste water fund; close to $24 million for the existing New Building Canada Fund; and close to $19 million for transfer programs to support municipalities in asset management planning and capacity building to help them face the challenges related to climate change.
In addition, Infrastructure Canada is requesting approximately $14.7 million for operating funding, which includes: $10.2 million for operating expenditures including personnel; $0.5 million for a data initiative with Statistics Canada; and $4 million to develop codes, guides, and specifications for climate resilient infrastructure with the National Research Council.
Finally, I would like to point out that, in keeping with the department's transparency mandate, we will present the results of our investments at the same time as this funding is disbursed.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before you today. We would be happy to answer any questions you have.
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
CPC (BC)
The clean water and waste-water fund is a fund that has been newly set up. Is that correct?
Okay.
My question arises because under the building Canada fund and under the green infrastructure fund that were set up in 2009, those waste-water projects were captured. There was also a list of projects for which the funds were earmarked for projects of interest, but they hadn't been announced yet. I would expect that the Lions Gate waste-water one would have been one of those, because I know they've been in negotiation for at least four years on that piece.
I'm trying to keep track of all this, because we're moving it out of one fund and putting it in another fund. We're saying that here are the shortened criteria, yet this has already been in process for a number of years.
Can we get a list that lays out those projects that had been earmarked for funds but that weren't announced?
Yazmine Laroche
View Yazmine Laroche Profile
Yazmine Laroche
2016-05-30 16:55
Let me just come back to Lions Gate, because I want to clarify that the funding for Lions Gate is actually in the new building Canada fund, which is no longer new; it's the previous new building Canada fund. Those funds were confirmed through budget 2016 to go to that project. It's not part of the clean water and waste-water fund.
View Mike Bossio Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much, Minister, for being here today. I will echo Cathy's words. It's great you're availing so much of your schedule to come to our committee. We greatly appreciate it.
I've spoken to you about this before, but on the whole funding issue around first nations, you mentioned that the $8.4 billion over five years was going to offset the shortfall, going from I think $8.6 billion to $7.5 billion.
Of that $8.4 billion, do you have a time frame as to how that's going to be allocated over each of the five years? How much of that last $726 million or whatever it was is going to be given back through that large sum?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
If you go to the main estimates, I think you'll see that a number of things, such as the specific and comprehensive claims, Indian residential schools, federal contaminated sites, and water and waste water have brackets around them. Those look like they're less. If you then compare that with what's in budget 2016, you can see those are augmented because of that anticipated funding.
There are some things that go down because they are winding down. With the Indian residential school settlement, as more and more people have been paid, we need less and less of a secretariat to do that work, so that one is definitely on its way down.
On the specific and comprehensive claims, that is always an estimate that gets booked based on how many claims you think you're going to settle. If they're not settled, they get moved into the following year and reprofiled. The department has not lost the money; we just didn't spend it this year.
On contaminated sites and water and waste water, what's in budget 2016 more than makes up for what looks like a decrease in the main estimates.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. Thank you.
Access to safe drinking water and effective treatment of waste water is critical to the health and safety of our first nations peoples. One of your government's promises was to ensure clean water availability in 93 communities on reserve currently affected by poor water quality.
In your plan to ensure clean water availability, has your department developed and implemented any of the regulatory components of that?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
At the moment, the regulatory has to be in collaboration with the provinces and territories. The safe drinking water act caused some consternation in certain communities such as Akwesasne, which is in Ontario, Quebec, and the U.S.
As we go forward, the regulatory piece is one thing. The infrastructure is another. Training is huge in terms of the plants. You can build all the plants, but if you don't have people who can run them and who won't be poached by the local town to run theirs.... I think that's why we have to work in regions: to figure out how we do this collaboratively both on the regulatory side and also on infrastructure and training.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Under the previous government, we spent nearly $400 million per year on water and waste water. Under budget 2016, the government announced $360 million in annual funding for clean water on reserves. Why the decrease in this waste water funding?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
For what looks like a decrease there, if you go to what's added in budget 2016, it actually ends up for 2016-17 at $294.8 million, so it more than makes up for the $137.3 million that looks like a decrease.
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Members of the committee, dear colleagues, I am obviously honoured to be here today with you for my first committee appearance as Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
I am delighted to tell you about the important work we have done since my appointment and explain the priorities of my mandate.
We are also here to present the 2016-2017 main estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as for the two agencies under my responsibility: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Parks Canada.
As you know, we have very hard-working public servants, and I'm delighted to be joined by three of them today. With me are Michael Martin, the deputy minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada; Ron Hallman, president of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; and Daniel Watson, chief executive officer of the Parks Canada Agency.
They work very hard. I really do appreciate all the support they and their staff provide me. They will assist me in answering your questions, which I'm sure will be very interesting.
On a personal note, and as many of you know, I'm the mother of three young children. I entered politics to make the world a better place for them, our fellow citizens, and our country. That is why I was particularly delighted when the Prime Minister asked me to work on the issue of climate change, because in my view there is no greater challenge for our generation.
Madam Chair, as you are aware, my mandate letter is extensive, so today I'd like to focus my comments on three key areas: addressing climate change at home and with our international partners; the review of our environmental assessment process; and the accessibility and expansion of our national parks and marine conservation areas.
On climate change, first I'd like to highlight some of the key ways in which we have, in just five months, demonstrated our commitment to the environment and to fulfilling Canada's role in tackling climate change. Let's start with Paris.
Canada went to the Paris conference with broad ambitions and great determination.
We pushed for an ambitious and balanced agreement where every country will take concrete measures to limit the increase in the global mean temperature to well under 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
My team succeeded in getting key results in the negotiations, notably the inclusion in the final agreement of language recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples internationally, and the text on the markets, which I personally helped negotiate.
We also announced $2.65 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable populations address climate change.
It was heartwarming to see nearly 200 countries come together in good faith to take action on climate change, but we all know that the agreement was just the beginning. The real work must take place in every country, at every level.
In that regard, I am happy to report that we have made tremendous progress on the bilateral stage. Just over a month ago, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau affirmed their common vision of a prosperous and sustainable North American economy. They both see the Paris agreement as a turning point. Our countries will sign the agreement this Friday in New York City, on Earth Day, along with at least 150 nations from around the world.
In Washington our leaders adopted a joint Canada-U.S. declaration. Among several important measures, it commits us to reducing methane from the oil and gas sector by 40% to 45%. That would be like taking every single car off the road in Ontario and Quebec. Taking this action on methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions overall. Our objective is to publish new regulations in 2017.
We also took action to align our regulatory standards on emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, as well as to work to phase out HFCs. These are important measures to make it easier to do business in our integrated economies. Just last week, Canada and the U.S. were proud to endorse the World Bank initiative, zero routine flaring by 2030, to address the environmental and energy security impacts of oil and gas flaring.
Canada has committed to working with the U.S. and with the International Civil Aviation Organization to reduce emissions from international air travel and transportation. We're also focusing our efforts on the continental front by working with the United States and Mexico on an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement. Together we want to maintain a consistent set of shared environmental values on our continent, including creating a level playing field for business.
It goes without saying that our efforts to be a constructive partner on the international scene were matched—and even surpassed—by our efforts here in Canada.
Madam Chair, I am certain you will agree with me when I say that, in order to meet the challenge of climate change, we need a shared vision and collective solutions. It is with this goal in mind that the government is working closely with the provinces and territories and with Canada's indigenous peoples.
In March, first ministers adopted the Vancouver declaration, and announced the creation of four working groups that will make recommendations on clean technology, innovation and jobs, carbon pricing, specific mitigation opportunities, and adaptation and climate resilience. Their reports will be considered by the first ministers in October 2016 and will be used to develop the pan-Canadian framework for clean growth in climate change.
It is only by working together that we will enable our country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while building a stronger, more resilient low carbon economy that provides good jobs and great opportunities for all Canadians.
Budget 2016 made significant investments to support these objectives. This is the greenest budget in Canada's history. Throughout the budget we see measures to support clean economic growth. This is an important recognition of the imperatives that reach through to the heart of our economy and well-being. We will support climate change mitigation and adaptation through investments in green infrastructure, public transit, and energy efficient social infrastructure.
The $5-billion investment in green infrastructure means cleaner water for Canadians as we modernize our waste water and waste water infrastructure.
It also means helping Canadians lower their energy bills by delivering energy efficiency programs to retrofit buildings and developing building codes that include requirements for climate resiliency.
We are also putting $3.4 billion over three years into public transit to lower emissions and help improve the quality of life.
Starting in 2017-18, over two years, we'll invest a further $125 million to enhance the green municipal fund, which supports innovative green infrastructure ideas for cities and towns across the country.
We will work together with the provinces and territories on how best to lever federal investments in the $2-billion low carbon economy fund to realize incremental emission reductions.
We will advance the electrification of vehicle transportation in collaboration with provinces and territories. We will foster dialogue in the development of regional plans for clean electricity transmission to reduce emissions.
As part of Canada's Participation in Emission Innovation, we will double investments in clean energy, research, and development over five years and work with global partners to promote cleaner energy and better environmental outcomes.
We will advance efforts to eliminate the dependence on diesel in indigenous, remote, and northern communities and use renewable, clean energy as a replacement.
Finally, we will invest more than $1 billion over four years starting in 2017-18 to support clean technology and innovation in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agriculture sectors that employ so many Canadians in different regions of our country.
Engaging Canadians on our plans and efforts to address climate change is something I view as essential. My department is developing an engagement strategy so that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast can take part in our efforts to create a climate-smart economy and country.
In fact, I'm delighted to announce that this coming Thursday we will launch an interactive website to collect Canadian views and smart solutions on how to fight climate change. Not only will all Canadians be able to feed their suggestions directly to the government; all suggestions received will be immediately published online in full. We hope citizens will be inspired by the ideas of their friends and neighbours.
The website will also offer Canadians the tools they need to hold town halls to engage their communities from the grassroots. I encourage all of you around this table to join the conversation online and be part of the solution, by making your suggestions or by hosting a town hall on climate change and clean growth in your communities.
I would also like to point out that on February 26 I launched a public consultation period for Canada's draft federal sustainable development strategy for 2016-19, and I look forward to the committee members' suggestions to help improve it.
In terms of the 2016-17 main estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada, planned spending will be $902.1 million. The decreases in the reference levels of some programs are mostly due to funding sunsetting on March 31, 2016. Renewed and additional funding was announced in budget 2016. The details of those specific announcements will be proposed in supplementary estimates for consideration by the committee this year.
Madam Chair, I would now like to turn to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which is also within my portfolio.
The government's priority is to rebuild the confidence of Canadians in environmental assessments. That is the only way to get resources to market responsibly in the 21st century. To accomplish this, we need a process that fully accounts for the many environmental, social, and economic considerations surrounding new projects and for the concerns of Canadians. We want to make sure that environmental assessment decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence and serve the public interest. Also, we need to work in partnership with indigenous peoples to ensure that their rights and interests are respected.
The review of the environmental assessment process will take time. That is why we have put in place interim principles to guide the assessment of major projects. These principles mean that no project will need to go back to square one, that decisions are based on science and traditional knowledge, that meaningful consultations with communities and indigenous peoples take place, and that we take into account direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions. I look forward to working with the agency, my colleagues, provinces, industry, and other stakeholders on this important review.
I am pleased to note that budget 2016 proposes to provide $14.2 million over four years to support the agency's activities and increase its capacity to undertake more consultations with the public and indigenous groups. This additional funding will be reflected in future estimates documents. Currently, the planned spending for the agency is marked at $30.9 million during 2016-17. This is consistent with funding levels for the last fiscal year.
Madam Chair, I would now like to bring your attention to the important work that is being done by Parks Canada and point out my priorities for that portfolio, which I know so many Canadians enjoy, especially as summer approaches.
I am sure everyone will agree with me when I say that our national parks, marine conservation areas, and national historic sites connect Canadians with their natural heritage. My priorities are to preserve and expand our national park system and marine conservation areas while respecting their ecological integrity.
In that regard, I can report that we have had very fruitful discussions with the Government of Ontario as well as with interested citizens to advance the completion of Rouge National Urban Park. I hope that we will soon be able to make an announcement.
You will have noted, of course that budget 2016 provides $42.4 million over five years to continue developing new national parks and national marine conservation areas, including the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut and the Thaidene Nëné National Park in the Northwest Territories.
We are also in the process of developing programs and services to allow more Canadians to enjoy our national parks, marine areas and historic sites. In this respect, I am delighted that the 2016 budget includes $83.3 million over five years for Parks Canada to allow free admission for all visitors.
I am sure that all the committee members will agree that this is an excellent way to celebrate our country's 150th anniversary and encourage new citizens and youth to learn more about our natural environment and our history.
Finally, I would like to say that I have learned to appreciate the essential role protected areas play in conserving nature and helping to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. I believe that we need to scale up our efforts to conserve the healthy, resilient ecosystems that we all depend on for our well-being. That is why I am pleased that budget 2016 is providing $81.3 million over five years to support marine conservation activities, including the designation of new marine protected areas. We are certainly determined to deliver on our promise to protect at least 17% of our land and 10% of our oceans by 2020.
In terms of the 2016-17 main estimates for Parks Canada, the planned spending for this fiscal year is $1.17 billion. The increase this fiscal year is mostly due to investment funding that Parks Canada has received to address infrastructure needs in national parks and national historic sites across Canada. Of course, all new funding announced in budget 2016 will be reflected in future estimate documents.
In conclusion, I want to stress how important it is to me that we work in the spirit of collaboration—within our own government and across party lines; with other jurisdictions in Canada and abroad; with individual Canadians, the private sector, and scientists; with NGOs, local communities, and indigenous peoples.
I would like to thank all of you for the important work you are doing as members of this committee. As parliamentarians, we are invested with a very important task when it comes to issues related to creating a clean environment and a sustainable economy for the benefit of all Canadians, as well as future generations of Canadians. As a new minister, I value your insights and welcome your suggestions, and I am very happy to take your questions.
Merci.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
If your job is to protect Canada's fresh water by using education, geomapping, watershed protection, and investments in better waste water treatment, and you're committed to setting higher air quality standards, you probably know that I've introduced my private member's bill, which I'll put in a plug for, the national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act. My bill requests that you work with provincial and territorial governments across Canada to develop a strong strategy to keep mercury out of our waterways and our air.
Can you let us know here in the committee what other measures you're taking that would complement this strategy?
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much. I appreciate your bill. We are studying the bill. Clearly the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps is a very important issue.
We're looking at a variety of different ways that we can reduce waste water. As you may recall, one of the first things I had to address was the issue of waste water disposal in Montreal. That was a really tough file. But why was I having to make a decision, which was the best decision, based on the science? I had to do it because the infrastructure was just not there.
I think you've seen the commitments on infrastructure in terms of fresh water. We have a number of different programs. I'm happy to follow up with you. I think I'm going to run out of time here.
View Catherine McKenna Profile
Lib. (ON)
Air quality is certainly something we look at, along with all the measures we can be taking to ensure that we have cleaner air. In terms of specific measures, probably my deputy can talk more about some examples
I certainly appreciate when we get thoughtful suggestions from parliamentarians about things we could be doing better. Both water and air are very big priorities for the department.
John Moffet
View John Moffet Profile
John Moffet
2016-03-08 11:53
If I'm going too fast, slow me down. I'm obviously happy to answer questions after my presentation.
I mentioned earlier that some parts of CEPA are designed to codify in domestic law international obligations.
Slide 15 speaks to two of those situations, where we have a very comprehensive regime that limits disposal at sea, basically in line with the international obligations under the London protocol, which placed very significant limits on what can go into the ocean for disposal. It's largely only inert products, and then only when the government is satisfied that disposal at sea is the environmentally best or preferable option.
Similarly, we have an extensive regime that regulates and establishes a permitting regime for hazardous imports and exports in transboundary movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.
These international regimes, however, are not static and get updated from time to time as new issues emerge. Since CEPA was last amended in a comprehensive manner, there have been two amendments to the London protocol, in 2006 and 2009, and we have not updated CEPA to keep track with and to codify those changes to the international regime.
Going to the next slide on water, I mentioned that in terms of regulating or restricting water pollution, section 36 of the Fisheries Act, which is a broad prohibition, is a powerful tool and is indeed the main tool that Environment and Climate Change Canada uses to restrict discharges into water. We enforce the prohibition, and we have regulations dealing with municipal waste water, effluents from metal mining, and effluents from pulp and paper.
However, we do have two broad sets of authorities to regulate water pollution. One is under the toxics provisions. We have developed a couple of fairly minor regulations under those authorities. Those are quite old. In the last decade or so, the main emphasis has been on the Fisheries Act.
In addition, the main way in which we use CEPA to address water pollution is that under CEPA we can regulate product content in a way that will minimize water pollution. The Fisheries Act has a broad prohibition on putting stuff in the water, but what we can do under some parts of CEPA is regulate product design and content. An example would be the phosphorus content in detergents. Again, rather than regulate how everybody uses their washing machines, we can limit the amount of phosphorus that goes into detergents at the product design and production level. Phosphorus is a problem in fresh water because it can generate excess growth of algae and muck up the ecosystem.
In addition, as my colleague mentioned, we have broad authority to establish guidelines, which has been done extensively, both from a health perspective and from an environment perspective, and in many cases jointly with provinces and territories, resulting in guidelines that are issued under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
The final set of authorities I'll speak to are described on slide 17, and there are two. One is emergencies and one is the federal house.
Under emergencies, as the slide indicates, the government has authority to require the preparation of environmental emergency plans. We have a set of regulations that require the development of plans by a wide range of facilities that are using an extensive list of substances, the release of which could be problematic. There's a strong focus on prevention of pollution and on ensuring that potential sources of inadvertent release are well set up to respond to, manage, and mitigate those releases as effectively as possible.
In addition, scattered throughout the act are various authorities that essentially allow the Minister of Environment to intervene in the case of an emergency. The minister can require somebody who has been responsible for a spill or other kind of emergency to take action and incur costs. The minister can take action herself, or can compel the government to take action and then recover the costs of taking actions, which of course in some cases may be the most expeditious thing to do.
One technical issue we have is that in some cases you have an emergency; something gets spilled in the water, let's say. There's a bunch of things you could do, but you're not sure which one will work best. Ideally, if you're a scientist, you want to replicate the scenario in a controlled manner, which could mean putting a deleterious substance in the water. Even though you're doing the research for good reasons, that would violate the prohibition in the Fisheries Act for depositing deleterious substances.
Although we have a robust regime that allows us to respond to emergencies, we do have this challenge where in certain types of responses, we might be violating other statutory authorities. That is some kind of wiring that could be addressed in your review of CEPA.
As I noted earlier, we have authorities to address actions on the part of the federal house, although to date these authorities have been used quite sparingly. I think we have two regulations and one code of practice.
We also have a couple of other authorities that allow the government to take action to address specific sources of air pollution and water pollution that cause problems in a transboundary manner if, say, a facility in southern Ontario is causing air pollution and is affecting air quality in Michigan. These authorities have never been used. We have instead established nationwide regimes for water pollution under the Fisheries Act and air pollution under CEPA.
The final slide I'll speak to is the one with a bar chart. The main message is one that I've given to every new minister in the last 10 years and to our colleagues at Treasury Board.
With all excuses to our friends in other departments, like Transport Canada, I think Environment Canada and Health Canada are in a relatively unique situation from a regulatory perspective. The simple example I give is that no new mode of transportation has been invented in the last century. Of course we need to continue to update our transportation regulations, but we're not dealing with new modes of transportation. On the other hand, from an environmental protection perspective, we have not yet assessed all substances that are in use in Canada. Inevitably, we're going to find more that need to be managed. Inevitably the government, regardless of its colour or stripe, is going to decide that in some cases, regulations are warranted, or at least some kind of intervention is warranted.
Similarly, we're starting to implement the federal, provincial and territorial air quality management system that contemplates the federal government setting baseline requirements for numerous air pollutants.
Finally, of course, lots of potential action on greenhouse gas could be taken by the federal government. There are a lot of issues that have not yet been fully understood, assessed, or managed.
You see this growth in this chart. What I'm suggesting is that regardless of the particular predilection for intervention or non-intervention by whatever government is in power, we're likely to see a need to intervene on additional issues over time.
One other point I'd make is that this chart significantly understates the level of activity. This counts discrete initiatives, discrete instruments. A lot of what we do is to amend regulations. I gave you the example earlier of the prohibition of various substances regulations. It's one regulation that covers—I don't have the exact number with me—about a dozen substances. As we identify other substances that need to be essentially prohibited, instead of promulgating a new regulation, we'll add that substance.
Similarly, we regularly update the regulations that address air emissions and vehicle emissions from, for example, light duty vehicles. We're remaining in lockstep with our colleagues in the United States. Each time it's not a new regulation, so it doesn't count in the bar chart here, but it's a significant new activity undertaken by the two departments that adds an increasing level of protection to Canadians and the environment.
With that rapid and broad tour of the statute, I'll stop. As I said, we're both happy to answer any questions that you might have now or in subsequent sessions.
View Dianne L. Watts Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you very much.
I have two questions.
We know that the federal waste-water regulations have changed and that a lot of our regional authorities and some cities have to upgrade their systems. They will need $3.4 billion to meet one of the targets and an additional $14.6 for the full compliance. Is there going to be a special fund set up to meet those federal requirements for cities and regions?
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
It is my understanding that municipalities will have to comply with federal regulations by 2020 or 2021.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
One of the reasons we designed the green infrastructure fund is to assist municipalities to invest in water and waste-water infrastructure. With $20 billion over the next 10 years, the municipalities will qualify for funding under that funding envelope in order for them to upgrade their water and waste-water facilities.
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