Evidence of meeting #42 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was emissions.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Basia Ruta  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Corporate Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Michael Keenan  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Mike Beale  Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment
  • Cynthia Wright  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Céline Gaulin  Chief Administrative Officer, Parks Canada Agency

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I will bring this meeting to order. We are starting late because of the votes in the House. I apologize, although I have no control over those things.

We are going to study today, pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), supplementary estimates (B), votes 1b, 5b, 10b, 15b, and 25b under Environment.

We want to welcome to the table today the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment. We welcome him here along with Ian Shugart, who's the deputy minister, and of course Michael Martin, who is the chief negotiator in the climate change negotiations office.

We welcome all of you to the table.

We have a point of order from Mr. Trudeau.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

I just want to bring it forward that the normal practice is that meetings with a minister are televised. We would very much have liked for this to be televised today as well.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I understand that, but at the same time, as I've said from the chair many times, if you guys wish to have meetings televised, move a motion. As such, as it says in the book, and I will go to the new book....

You guys should actually read the new O'Brien and Bosc. It's a fantastic writing.

On page 1098, in chapter 20, it says, “The decision to televise a committee meeting may take the form of a committee motion to that effect, or may be made by the Chair with the implied consent of the members”.

I didn't believe I had that consent, so I didn't arrange for television.

With that, Mr. Prentice, could you bring us your opening comments?

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.

This is the third or fourth time I've been to committee, as I recall. It's always a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation to speak.

As you're aware, joining me today are Ian Shugart, my deputy minister, and Michael Martin, who is our ambassador on climate change.

I will address with the committee, first, the supplementary estimates (B), and second, in the time we have, other issues. My officials are prepared to remain afterwards to respond to questions, which I know the committee members will have, relative to the details of the supplementary estimates.

This has been a pivotal year for this portfolio at Environment Canada and also for Parks Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. We are making progress on major files.

For Environment Canada, the $34 million in supplementary requests arise from, first, $25.2 million to support the regulatory activities under the clean air regulatory agenda, which we can speak to; $6.4 million to modernize six Environment Canada laboratories and wildlife centres as part of the initiatives under the economic action plan; $5 million to support the Mackenzie gas project in the NWT; and $3.1 million to help implement the Canada-United States clean energy dialogue.

Environment Canada is also facing reductions amounting to some $8 million related to updated estimates of moneys needed for things such as the assessment, management, and remediation of contaminated sites that are under Environment Canada's control.

The supplementary requisition for Parks Canada of $13.1 million arises from a number of measures: $9 million for the assessment, management, and remediation of federal contaminated sites; and $3 million for programs to advertise Canada's national parks during this important year for Canadian tourism as we welcome the world to Canada's Olympic Games.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has a supplementary requisition in the amount of $215,000 to support the Mackenzie gas project in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Chair, I referred to this as a pivotal year for Environment Canada, Parks Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The spending included in these supplementary estimates will push ahead several of the important projects on which we have been gathering momentum since I last met with the committee in February.

I would like to remind the committee of the important progress already made this past year on a number of fronts. Last April, we announced a notice of intent to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions under CEPA. We will regulate in a manner that is equivalent to U.S. fuel economy standards for the 2011 model year and match U.S. tailpipe standards for the 2012-2016 model years. The result is a set of ambitious standards that are harmonized in North America with the United States.

A significant achievement this year was that Parliament gave unanimous consent to the expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve to six times its previous size—a contiguous protected area that is about the size of Belgium. This is in addition to the six additional wildlife areas that we will create in the Northwest Territories.

Another example is the action on waste water. For four years, Environment Canada worked with provincial and territorial governments to develop a Canada-wide strategy on the management of municipal waste water effluent. Last February, ministers approved this Canada-wide strategy. Federal regulations under the Fisheries Act will set national performance standards, timelines, and monitoring and reporting requirements.

We've also made progress in our efforts to extend protection of the polar bear population in the Arctic. Earlier this year, shortly after becoming the minister, I hosted a national round table on polar bears. In October, following that and at the recommendation of the round table, we signed an agreement with Greenland, and last month the Canada-United States polar bear oversight committee met. All along we have seen an unprecedented level of effort from aboriginal peoples and all levels of government to conserve and manage polar bear populations in Canada, particularly those we share with Greenland.

This year we've also made significant progress on the world-leading chemicals management plan, which we introduced in 2006. In total we have published a proposed risk management approach for 29 substances found to be potentially harmful to human health and/or the environment.

Mr. Chairman, as one more example, I would cite the new Environmental Enforcement Act, passed last June, which increases fines and provides new enforcement tools. I'm also looking forward to working with this committee on the important review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is scheduled to start next year. I know that many members of the committee have points of view on this. I also look forward to receiving your report on the review of SARA, which the committee began last spring.

I think it's fair to say, Mr. Chairman, when it comes to the environment portfolio, the top-of-mind concern for the committee and for Canadians is climate change.

Last week the United States President announced a reduction target of minus 17% of their 2005 base by 2020. The Canadian policy for the past two years has been reductions of minus 20% of the 2006 Canadian base by 2020. These targets are virtually identical, and we will make whatever minor adjustments are necessary to make them identical, ultimately with the same baseline.

To achieve real environmental and economic benefits for Canadians, we have been acting on three different tracks--domestic, continental, and international. On the domestic track, we will continue to invest in green technology and R and D, and will introduce a regulatory system for our industries that is harmonized with that of the United States.

As part of our commitment to a North American cap and trade system, we will continue to work together with the United States in that regard.

Our country is also committed to the goal of having 90% of Canada's electricity provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal, or wind power by 2020.

This continental approach includes such initiatives as the clean energy dialogue as well as the harmonization of our measures with those of our neighbour and our largest trading partner.

I am also pleased to report that a month or so ago, at the WILD9 conference in Mexico, Canada signed a historic agreement with the United States and Mexico to build resilient, well-connected networks of protected areas as a legacy for the future.

On the international level, we will remain a full and effective partner in the multilateral negotiations. The United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, which begins next week, provides a historic opportunity to achieve a global consensus on a fair, environmentally effective and comprehensive climate change agreement.

In Canada's view, this agreement should include comparable economy-wide emission reduction commitments by developed countries for the 2013-2021 period. It should include significant mitigation actions by the major developing countries, led by China. A Copenhagen agreement should enhance global action to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this past weekend, the Prime Minister joined with other leaders to underline their firm political commitment to a successful outcome in Copenhagen. They endorsed the establishment, as part of a comprehensive agreement, of a fund of up to $10 billion per year by 2012 to support adaptation in the most vulnerable countries, research, development and deployment of clean technologies, and action to reduce deforestation in developing countries.

Mr. Chairman, I would, in closing, just like to also briefly touch on a speech that was recently given by the Leader of the Opposition, in which he listed—

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Mr. McGuinty on a point of order.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Excuse me, Mr. Minister.

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, can you help Canadians understand how the minister's responding to a speech from the Leader of the Opposition is related to supplementary estimates (B)?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

In testimony given by witnesses, including ministers, at committee, they are allowed to give their opening statements. They don't have to be as relevant as we would want.

I'm not going to rule it out of order. I'm going through the new O’Brien and Bosc, and under “Testimony” it says:

Witnesses appearing before committees are usually asked to make a brief opening statement, summarizing their views or the views of the organization they represent, on the subject of the committee’s inquiry.

Then you're allowed to answer questions.

So if Minister Prentice feels this is important as it relates to our overall study of the estimates and the work the department has undertaken, then I'm going to allow him to bring that forward.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

So, Mr. Chair, if I could, presumably you're going to accord the same latitude to members of this committee.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Because it's in his opening statement it's open to questions.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Thank you, sir.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Minister Prentice.

December 3rd, 2009 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Leader of the Opposition listed his party's agenda on the environment. While much of what is on that list are initiatives that the government has already taken action on, there lies a danger in Leader of the Opposition's thinking that I'd like to draw your attention to. It is germane to what is happening right now, at Copenhagen and elsewhere.

The Leader of the Opposition reinforces this government's strategy for a national cap and trade system that will include absolute caps, put a price on carbon, and be structured so it can be harmonized with a future United States system. However, the Liberal leader at the same time has adopted the European baseline of 1990 rather than the North American targets that have been adopted by both this government and the Obama administration. Throughout the speech, the Leader of the Opposition indicated the need for harmonization with the United States, but insisted on diverting from the North American targets that both countries have identified, which are virtually identical and would permit harmonization.

The Liberal leader has called for a clean energy act that would adopt the toughest vehicle emissions in North America. I think this is one where I believe the leader of the Liberal Party does not appreciate the importance of harmonizing our standards with those of the United States. Our economies are integrated, and our environments are integrated as well. We need to harmonize our regulatory approaches.

Our goal should be to integrate with the national standards of the United States--not to try to implement the toughest standards on the continent, but rather to have a harmonized North American standard. We need regulations that keep our borders open to trade and encourage a North American-wide approach to addressing climate change.

Mr. Chairman, we will continue to work with the United States towards a common North American approach for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, which will benefit the environment, industry, and consumers.

It is crucial that a plan for the environment take into consideration Canada's entire geographic, economic, and industrial realities. To ignore them would lead to continental isolation and economic hardships--two things that this government will not allow.

When we meet again, I believe we'll be able to point to further examples of how, in this pivotal time for the environment and the economy, Canada has made real progress.

I welcome the committee's questions.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you, Minister. I'd like to thank you for staying under the time limit as well.

Because we have a tight timeframe, I want to ask committee members if they agree to having reduced opening rounds so that everybody has a chance to speak. Do I have a consensus?

Mr. McGuinty.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

I'm hoping the minister will accommodate a ten-minute delay or so. I'm sure I can't speak for his schedule, but I'm hoping that 12:15 will be a satisfactory time. That would allow a good seven to ten minutes for all parties.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I won't give any flexibility beyond seven minutes because of our tight timeframe. I'll let the minister decide whether he can stay longer or not. It's his schedule and I have to respect that.

Mr. Warawa has a point of order.