Evidence of meeting #26 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Carol Najm  Assistant Deputy Minister, Finance Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Yves Leboeuf  Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
  • Karen Dodds  Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment
  • Paul Boothe  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

5 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

Thank you.

First of all, with regard to the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab, that facility was established by a Conservative government in the early 1990s. It was mothballed by the Liberal government in 2001. We reopened it as a result of funding provided to university researchers in 2009, and their funding ran out this year. Environment Canada supported their application in a projects competition. We are prepared and we continue to be prepared to underwrite to a quarter of a million dollars the continued operation and the hosting of that facility. Unfortunately, the applicants were unsuccessful.

With regard to the $35 million, yes, indeed, it was promised as a funding envelope in budget 2011. Those funds have been approved by Treasury Board and are on their way or have already arrived at the arm's-length agency, which will, again, through peer review of science applications, assign those funds to appropriate projects.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much.

Mr. Woodworth, you have six minutes.

March 13th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Minister and officials, for your time today.

I'd like to pick up on one or two things Ms. Leslie was asking about. In particular, I want to make sure that I correctly understand the issue of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the sunsetting of funds, because when I look at page 106 of the main estimates, it refers to “a decrease of $10.2 million due to the sunsetting of the Budget 2007 initiative to improve Canada's regulatory framework for major resource projects” and also “a decrease of $1.1 million due to the sunsetting of funding to proactively lead Aboriginal consultations during environmental assessments”.

The first thing I understand by the concept of sunsetting is that these were special projects, funded for a time-limited period, and that project and that time-limited period is now complete. Is that correct?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

That's correct, and they will be in the budget. We have recommended their renewal and continuance. As Mr. Leboeuf said, there will be additional funds for first nations consultation.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

You've jumped ahead of me.

For the benefit of others on the committee and those who have asked questions about this, in point of fact, even though those programs have now been completed, new applications for further funding have been submitted and been recommended. Although we can't talk about what's in the budget, there is at least a possibility that funding may in fact be in the budget. So what appears as a decrease today won't actually be a decrease. Is that correct?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

That's absolutely right.

As I said, there were a number of sunsetted funds in the previous fiscal year. There was great attention and there were suggestions of cuts regarding those worthy programs, but in fact, with my recommendation, the department's recommendation, and with the agency's recommendation with regard to CEAA, those funds were renewed.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Let's just say the reports of the death of those programs are somewhat premature, if it may be put that way.

By the way, I want to say also how proud and pleased I am that the Environment Canada main estimates show an increase of $100 million, or 12%, which I think in an era of fiscal austerity shows that the government places a high priority on what your department is doing, Minister. I appreciate that.

I have one further question. I too have been reading about PEARL, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory. I understand that full-time, year-round, university-led research is going to be discontinuing at PEARL. I have the impression that Environment Canada will continue to conduct operations at the Eureka area. What is the status of Environment Canada activity in the high Arctic, given the discontinuance of the academic research?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

First, on the temporary--I hope--suspension of research activity at the PEARL station, it will not affect ozone monitoring or weather responsibilities of the Canadian Meteorological Service, which also has a station in Eureka. Some equipment used by that station—one of the Brewer ozone monitoring devices—was located at the PEARL facility because it was a good location and convenient for both ourselves and the research teams to use. For the moment, it will be relocated to the weather station and ozone monitoring, and weather obligations will continue to be met.

As you know, in the past two years we’ve made a commitment to expand and develop our weather services across the north, to deliver the same reliability of forecasting and warnings of extreme weather and maritime conditions as Canadians in the southern latitudes enjoy.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

I understand there are also Arctic sites relating to wildlife and landscape research and monitoring. Could you or your officials mention something about that?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

I think I would refer to Dr. Dodds.

5:05 p.m.

Dr. Karen Dodds Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Thank you very much.

Yes, as the minister said, we continue to have the separate site at Eureka, a separate building looking at ozone and water and air quality. We have a number of other air quality sites across the north, about eight, and more than 40 sites for monitoring water. We have in the area of ten or more sites, I believe, where we do research and monitoring with regard to wildlife and habitat.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good. Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Unfortunately, your time has expired.

We'll move now to Ms. Murray, for six minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate your coming here to help us understand the plans for the Ministry of the Environment.

I understand that in the plans there is an intention to spend money to enhance “Canada’s visibility as an international leader in clean energy technology”. I'm interested to know what that means: how much money we're talking about; how it will be spent; whether it includes funding to promote oil sands products; and whether that money is to be spent here, in Canada, or spent elsewhere, outside of Canada.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

Let me start by saying that the international community does require assistance in being informed and enlightened with regard to Canada's resource practices and principles and, with regard to the oil sands, the responsibly regulated measures that this government takes with regard to exploiting a legitimate Canadian natural resource.

Certainly at every opportunity ministers of the government abroad work to deliver that message, that in fact there has been a misrepresentation—in many cases an exaggeration, and in certain cases deliberate falsehoods—with regard to the characterization of the exploitation of the resource industries.

With regard to specific dollar amounts, I think Deputy Boothe has them at hand.