Evidence of meeting #36 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 conservation.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Pamela Zevit  Registered Professional Biologist, Past President, Chair, Practice Advisory and Professional Ethics, Association of Professional Biology
  • Chloe O'Loughlin  Director, Terrestrial Conservation, British Columbia Chapter, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
  • Brian Riddell  President and Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Salmon Foundation
  • Jeff Surtees  Chief Executive Officer, Trout Unlimited Canada
  • Alan Martin  Director, Strategic Initiatives, B.C. Wildlife Federation
  • Devon Page  Executive Director, Ecojustice Canada
  • Scott Ellis  Executive Director, Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia
  • Linda Nowlan  Director, Pacific Conservation, World Wildlife Fund (Canada)
  • Neil Fletcher  Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation
  • David Bradbeer  Program Coordinator, Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust
  • Jessica Clogg  Executive Director and Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
  • Damien Joly  Associate Director, Nanaimo, Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

We saw a lot of that yesterday—the local community initiative. You're not taking away that initiative; you're just saying to have the principles guiding it, so that it's not a top-down, heavy-handed approach but rather a guiding and principle-based approach from the top, allowing these community initiatives to go forward.

9:20 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Salmon Foundation

Dr. Brian Riddell

Yes, it should definitely not be heavy-handed. You want to stimulate the initiative at the local scale. By stimulating it and resourcing it to some extent, as Jeff has said, you'll get excellent return and excellent support. They will know that their interests are being attended to, that we're all in this together, that there is not a division in this, and that we can design common goals.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Surtees, you talked a little bit about education. I'd like to expand on that. You talked about the one plan you have for educating youth. It is a huge challenge.

I come from an urban area. I was fortunate enough to have parents who spent a lot of time with me and brought me out into the wilderness areas of Manitoba. It was a great experience, and I continue to do this with my children. But there are a lot of urban children who do not have that opportunity.

How do we continue to reach out to them? Are there certain principles we should be using as a guide as we go forward, no matter what association it is? I know the fishers have some great programs. I'm assuming the trout fishers have them. I know that in Manitoba some of the fishing groups and the angler associations have some really good programs that just get kids out fishing on the Red River, which runs right through the centre of Winnipeg. You don't have to take them hundreds of miles away, but rather can get them to understand how nature works together right within the structure of the concrete jungle, so to speak.

Can you give us some thoughts and ideas on how we can reach out more and more to these youth, and especially involve the ones who to some degree don't have a family supporting them or a background in conservation? How do we reach out to them?

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Trout Unlimited Canada

Jeff Surtees

It's a big challenge, and you're entirely right about city kids' lack of exposure to things that are wild. I was certainly one of those kids. I grew up in a small city but wasn't really exposed to too much outdoors.

What I'm told by professional educators is that the amount of involvement doesn't have to be that much; it just has to be something. I realize it's a provincial responsibility, but there has to be curriculum material that gets kids involved in the outdoors. They have to know where their food comes from. Food does not come from Safeway. It comes from animals, for the most part, and plants. Children have to understand where it comes from.

Getting involved in outdoor activities, whether through the national park system, through hiking, photography, bird-watching, hunting, fishing—all of these things—is important. And it can start to happen at a very young age. I think it only works if the base level of knowledge is built up a little bit, and then through community groups, that's where the kids will really get the opportunities. It can't be forced on children. They just have to be exposed to it.

Someone—I believe it was Robert Bateman—came up with a plan to put something in the curriculum whereby all kids would have to learn 10 natural plants and animal species. That's a great idea. Most kids couldn't name 10 wild plant species, I don't think.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Your time has expired.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Trout Unlimited Canada

Jeff Surtees

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Monsieur Choquette, you have seven minutes.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank all the witnesses for being here today.

A lot of things are in progress with respect to the national conservation plan. There is much talk here about protecting habitat and water, groundwater and surface water.

Mr. Riddell, we had the opportunity to speak yesterday about protecting water and habitat. I noted that British Columbia has the same problem as Quebec when it comes to industry. We cannot put in place a national conservation plan without having scientific data and good regulation.

The shale gas industry and the coal bed methane industry that is active here, in British Columbia, uses an enormous amount of water. It is a concern of a lot of residents in my area, Drummondville, and elsewhere. I've also heard people say that it was a concern here.

What regulation should a national conservation plan include so that water is not contaminated or depleted? The water currently being used by the shale gas industry runs off into the ground in such a way that the water is lost, which affects the water level.

Could anyone with some knowledge about this say a few words?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Trout Unlimited Canada

Jeff Surtees

I'll speak very briefly and limit my comments to the production of shale gas.

The research we've done as an organization indicates that the bigger problem with shale gas production is the infrastructure that's required to produce the shale gas. That's as big a problem as the use of water, and when I say infrastructure, I'm talking about roads, pipes, all that kind of thing.

What sort of regulation should be put in place is a very big topic. We have to protect areas that can't be replaced—areas like the Skeena River system in B.C.

I'll pass to Mr. Riddell.

9:25 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Salmon Foundation

Dr. Brian Riddell

I have to agree; it's a huge question. There is a lack of regulation right now, to be honest. The concern is very great. There is extensive shale gas development in northeastern B.C., and there have been efforts to expand into major salmon watersheds.

It does take a huge volume of water. Depending on the type of material you're fracturing, the water can come back in an unusable form and the water quality is greatly degraded, so there is strong opposition in some of the really pristine habitats. Jeff referred to the Skeena River, which is in central northern British Columbia. There are areas there that are in pristine condition, and that is where Shell Gas wanted to develop. I'm sure you're aware there was extremely strong opposition to that, partly because there is a lack of a regulatory framework at this time.

I think you're touching on a problem that many people, I think even internationally, are looking at—you hear mixed reviews. Some areas seem to be okay with it. They aren't finding heavy contaminants. Other areas are being shut down because the contaminant loads in the fresh water are unacceptable. It may be very site specific in terms of what the real regulation has to be.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Terrestrial Conservation, British Columbia Chapter, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Chloe O'Loughlin

I can give you an on-the-ground example, and that's in northeastern British Columbia. Major oil and gas development happens there, and it's an important part of British Columbia's economy. We believe there should be balance between conservation and industrial development, and that area right now is very worrisome.

The most endangered boreal caribou in Canada are there, and Treaty 8 first nations are very worried, not only about contamination but also about the groundwater level and whether there's going to be enough water in the future.

I believe it's a matter of regulation and self-regulation by industry. There are many companies up there, and as my colleague said, they're all building roads, pipelines, and paths. They could be working together much more effectively to build one road, one shared pipeline, and that may be a matter of real leadership from the Government of Canada and the encouragement of the best of industry to take the lead and show how it can be done.

Northeastern British Columbia would be a great place to work on this and then showcase that to the rest of Canada.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette Drummond, QC

Miss Zevit, I would like to finish my question with respect to this area.

There is a change to environmental assessments in the regulation measures of the national conservation plan. Now, instead of triggers, it will be lists. Should shale gas also figure in the lists?

9:30 a.m.

Registered Professional Biologist, Past President, Chair, Practice Advisory and Professional Ethics, Association of Professional Biology

Pamela Zevit

I would say that from a broad legislative perspective and looking at policy, any particular extraction or resource development activity needs to be part of a comprehensive plan in which cumulative effects are factored in, so that includes mineral exploration, oil and gas exploration. In British Columbia, of course, we do have significant issues around that. The province has looked at issues of providing some level of accountability around chemicals that are used in shale gas exploration and reporting.

More broadly, we really do not have good harmonization between national and provincial legislation on things like cumulative effects so that we can identify priority areas that need to be set aside for conservation, where we are not going to be touching those areas because of their significance and the role they may play now and in the future as part of conservation, whether it's for species or rare ecological communities.

The short answer is yes. We do need to have shale gas and other types of resource extraction as part of a comprehensive planning process to ensure we are avoiding significant impacts in the future.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

All right. Time has expired.

Next we will hear from Mr. Lunney, for seven minutes.

May 15th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for being with us today.

We had a fascinating day yesterday, touring sites on Vancouver Island of stream restoration and various projects. British Columbia salmon are iconic here, and on Vancouver Island we had a lot of habitat destruction because of the interaction of humans with their environment. We saw some great examples of restoration yesterday.

Your organizations, both the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Trout Unlimited, have been big time involved in working with local groups, habitat enhancement societies, various agencies such as B.C. Conservation Foundation—with us yesterday—and Streamkeepers, organizations like that. I think Dr. Riddell mentioned some 350 organizations that the Pacific Salmon Foundation has worked with.

Yesterday we saw the Millstone River in an urban area of Nanaimo and the great work that has been done. There are two kilometres of spawning channel through a park that now has a whole community's support behind it, with children helping to see that salmon come up through the stream, connecting the watershed there with very promising returns.

I wanted to just take us back up to where we were yesterday, for the record, and that's Nile Creek, one of the other projects we saw. Nile Creek restoration has been going for a number of years and has been described by many as a model of stream restoration.

I just wonder, Dr. Riddell, if you'd take a moment to describe what makes that particular project what many consider to be a model for stream bed restoration.