Evidence of meeting #31 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 nature.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Peter Kendall  Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers
  • Len Ugarenko  President, Wildlife Habitat Canada
  • Sophie Gallais  Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec
  • Mark Northwood  President and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Do you have any figures on people's health, for example, which could be improved through the national conservation plan?

We talked about the economy, and we said that the cost of taking no action to address climate change or nature conservation was very high. I talked about that with representatives of Équiterre and other environmental groups this morning. Do you have any statistics showing that it is really time to act, that the federal government has a role to play in this regard and that it is not too late since we could take positive action? That could affect people because we are talking about including action by citizens in all this.

4:45 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

Unfortunately, I am not at home and I do not have the documentation with me. If you wish, however, I could send that information to the committee.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

That would be appreciated.

In the same vein, Mr. Ugarenko talked about the impact on human health, the economy and quality of life.

Do you have any figures on prevention and on what the federal government could do through the conservation plan to promote citizen involvement and government involvement?

4:45 p.m.

President, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Len Ugarenko

I don't have any figures with me but I can obtain some for you. There have been a number of studies done across North America, for example, on the impact of water pollution on human health. There have been a couple of incidents in Ontario, Walkerton being one that comes to mind. Outfits such as the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority were created because it was understood that there was an imminent threat from agricultural pollution. So there are data out there, and that's why I advocate getting these groups involved in the development and implementation of a national conservation plan. I think this would be a huge benefit to society.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Thank you.

My last question is for Ms. Gallais. Mr. Ugarenko made a connection with agriculture. I believe that, in your 2012 plan, there is a link on how to include farmers in the conservation plan. With regard to green technologies, it would be a good idea to address the importance of the scientific research that farmers are trying to include in their economic development innovations.

4:45 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

With regard to agriculture, I believe that farmers are open to the idea of doing their part for conservation. As for scientific research and knowledge transfer, it is important that there be both basic and applied research, which would enable us to obtain concrete results.

It is also important to consider the entire information transfer chain so that farmers can have access to that information on cropping practices that should be put in place, particularly the type of crop and its impact on climate change. I believe that there is an entire action component in which farmers are prepared to take part, but the lack of information could impede action.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much. The time has expired.

I will remind members as they ask questions of the witnesses to stay focused on the scope of this study. I think we find ourselves veering off topic at times. Please stay within this scope in your questioning.

Next we have Ms. Ambler.

April 26th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today and for your very enlightening presentations.

My question is with regard to the connections we were talking about earlier. My interests lie in connecting urban and suburban Canadians with nature, which is part of the goal, and certainly I think it should be the goal, of a national conservation plan.

I was very privileged to be able to take a tour of the Earth Rangers Centre a couple of years ago to learn a bit about the award-winning features of the green home. As I understand it, it's one of the most energy-efficient buildings in North America. I was very impressed.

I want to know how you think we can connect urban and suburban Canadians, who are interested in making their homes greener and respecting our planet but who really have absolutely no connection to nature, to our national conservation plan. What can we do to make the plan relevant to them?

My question is for you, Mr. Ugarenko, but I'd also like to know if the Earth Rangers would like to answer, too.

4:50 p.m.

President, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Len Ugarenko

Thank you very much.

It's a good question. There is a lot of green space in urban areas that is really underutilized.

I've been talking to some school teachers and principals here in Ottawa because when you go by a school you see a lot of grass. There isn't a heck of a lot else going on. I thought that one way they could incorporate nature into their curriculum—and this would be something you could put in within the purpose of the plan, the first point—is to have the schools link up with nurseries or whomever and come up with a plan of putting in vegetation that's going to be friendly to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The students do the planting. Hire a couple of them to keep their eyes on it over the summer time, but track the progress of the vegetation and what comes to it over the course of the year.

You could also develop what you could call a biological transect through the vegetation so that you're starting with some low bush stuff where you may get grasshoppers, the odd toad showing up, to trees where you'll be identifying what birds are nesting in them and how they're being utilized.

I think it's a tremendous resource that's not being utilized.

We have Ontario's past legislation where we can't use pesticides on our lawns, but most cities have noxious weed bylaws. So if I want to turn my front lawn into an area with butterfly bushes and all kinds of stuff, chances are the city is going to come along and tell me I can't do it. I would love to have nature on my front lawn. I have it in my backyard because there are fences and people can't see it, but I think we have a huge amount of green space that people have access to but we're not utilizing.

For those folks who are living in apartments, townhouses, whatever, we could utilize the roofs of those buildings. It has been done. You could not only grow food on them but you could also have a significant impact in educating people about nature, for instance, to keep the lights off at night so the migratory birds don't crash into the buildings.

Again, there are circles within circles and connections that can be followed.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Terrific. Thank you.

Peter.

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers

Peter Kendall

I'll repeat myself a bit here, as we're strong supporters of getting kids out into nature. But what we also need to do through this plan is to create a cultural shift, starting with the kids. To do that we can't ignore traditional media and reaching kids en masse as well. For us, we really have to go to where the kids are, as much as thinking about getting them outside. That's in schools. So school programs would be important around the conservation program, and the TV, Internet.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

But you do think that ultimately there is a place for urban Canadians in a national conservation plan and that there should be? What priority would you place on that, on getting urban and suburban Canadians to buy in?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

The time has expired, but I'll give you, say, 30 seconds to answer.

4:55 p.m.

Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers

Peter Kendall

We certainly do. We run our programs in schools in northern Ontario first nations communities right across the country and primarily in urban centres. We don't find any difference in the kids in downtown Toronto than we find in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you.

Monsieur Pilon, you have cinq minutes.