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.