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

10:40 a.m.

Linda Nowlan Director, Pacific Conservation, World Wildlife Fund (Canada)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WWF Canada appreciates the invitation to appear before your committee.

Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

As one of Canada's oldest and largest conservation organizations, with offices in all corners of the country, we're eager to do what we can to make this make this plan a leading example for the world.

Today, as I speak to you, WWF is releasing its eighth Living Planet Report in major capitals and business centres around the world. In fact, it is actually being delivered from space today as I talk to you. That was late-breaking news, not in my written remarks. This is our own state-of-the-world publication, a global accounting index that tracks the state of biodiversity and the human footprint on earth.

This report's clear message is that we are taking more from our planet than our planet is able to give. The findings are that biodiversity has declined by 30% since 1970, while our demand on the planet, our footprint, has more than doubled. If we imagined countries as businesses, Canada ranks as one of the worst-performing capital managers. We have the eighth largest per capita footprint of any country on earth. If every citizen of earth consumed as Canadians do, we'd need 3.5 earths to supply our needs. There is an urgent need for the plan we are discussing today.

In the short time we have, I will outline WWF's top three priorities for the national conservation plan, followed by some more specific recommendations on conservation and implementation priorities.

Our top three recommendations are, number one, to aim high. Our conservation goals should exceed our development goals. Number two is to celebrate Canadians' pride in nature with an innovative public engagement program. Number three is to challenge the private sector to match the government's conservation activities.

Before going into detail about these priorities, l'd just like to say a few words about why we are here and the opportunity we have to create something lasting and meaningful.

It won't come as a surprise to any of you, but we are the envy of the world for our wealth, especially our natural wealth. People around the globe are in awe of what Canadians have at our disposal and for our enjoyment, both out in the wilderness and in cities.

Across the bridge, Vancouver has pledged to be the greenest city in the world by 2020, and has taken major steps to reap the environmental and economic benefits from its greenest city action plan. Canada's national conservation plan should match the ambition in this goal.

Here in B.C. we have amazing natural wonders like the Great Bear Rainforest and Sea on the north coast, where one of the world's last intact temperate rainforests meets some of the planet's last large wild rivers and most productive cold water seas. It is an area of incredible abundance, which I was lucky enough to visit last fall. I was amazed at the experience of walking up streams so choked by salmon that it was hard to navigate. Where would B.C. be without salmon?

The Fraser River, right outside our window, is the greatest salmon-producing river on earth. More than two billion juvenile salmon spend weeks or months in the estuary before beginning their ocean migration.

How can our national conservation plan safeguard this incredible natural wealth? This brings me back to our top three priorities.

First, we need to aim high. We recommend that the federal government's plan for more than 500 development projects representing over $500 billion in new investments in the decade ahead should be matched with an even more ambitious conservation plan. The government is to be congratulated for the huge progress we've made with protected areas on land. We need similar progress in protecting our marine and freshwater environments.

We join with other witnesses you have heard from who have emphasized the need for Canada to meet the international legal commitments, in particular commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Aichi biodiversity targets. We suggest matching priority outcomes of the plan to the Aichi targets, as the U.K. biodiversity strategy has done.

Second, we recommend that the plan celebrate Canadians' pride in nature with an innovative public engagement program—this century's version of the excitement generated by our centennial celebrations in 1967.

WWF has an intensive focus on public engagement and participation, and we would be pleased to share our experiences. Earth Hour, the largest public involvement event in Canada, is organized by WWF, and is participated in by 10 million Canadians and 100 million people around the world.

It's a symbolic activity, to show a commitment to climate change action. Earth Hour asks you to turn off your lights, to switch off, for one hour each March.

We're now building on public recognition of Earth Hour to reach more substantive conservation goals. The committee members have noted the importance of reaching people who live in cities as part of the NCP. The WWF network will continue Earth Hour's positive momentum through the Earth Hour city challenge, a new initiative that highlights and rewards city governments that are prepared to make substantial long-term efforts to combat climate change—an integral part of any national conservation plan.

Third, we invite the government to challenge the private sector to be a full participant in the plan. One example we're proud to highlight is from one of our corporate partners. By the end of 2013, Loblaw, Canada's largest purchaser of seafood, has made a globally leading commitment to source 100% of all the wild and farmed fish sold in its stores across Canada from sustainable sources. We're collaborating on this with Loblaw, as well as with other scientists, science advisors, government agencies, and seafood vendors.

Those are our top three priorities for the plan. We've prepared a written brief that addresses the purpose, goals, and guiding principles for the NCP, which I will leave with you.

In the time remaining, I will talk about conservation and implementation priorities for the plan.

WWF recommends that the plan include bold steps on water, climate, and people, including actions to protect the Great Bear Sea, the marine counterpart to the Great Bear Rainforest. This region generates $104.3 million in revenue and provides 2,200 long-term jobs.

We recommend recovering the Grand Banks ecosystem, including Atlantic cod productivity.

We recommend maintaining natural flow regimes in selected large wild rivers in every basin across Canada. The federal government has the constitutional responsibility to protect fish and their habitat, and that includes the rivers, streams, and wetlands on which they depend. The Fisheries Act sets a vital national standard for protecting fish habitat. The proposed changes to this act, which would dilute this national standard, are of grave concern to us and many others. They are not compatible with a national conservation plan.

We also recommend priorities for establishing the last ice area in Canada's far north and a Canadian energy strategy.

Our implementation priorities are to complete Canada's protected area networks, both terrestrial and marine. We recommend establishing recovery programs for every species listed in the Species at Risk Act as soon as possible. This includes all the freshwater and marine fish that have lagged behind terrestrial species in being given the legal protection they need.

Species at risk need their critical habitat protected. As my colleague just explained in detail, if we want healthy salmon populations we need to protect salmon habitat. The Species at Risk Act is the tool we use to keep species healthy across the country. We urge you to strengthen this act as part of the national conservation plan.

Another implementation priority is to protect natural flow, and the federal Fisheries Act is a key tool to conserve, protect, and restore rivers across Canada.

Our final implementation priority is to support credible globally recognized marketplace certification systems, such as the Marine Stewardship Council for fishing, which helps to secure natural capital while maintaining Canadian business market share internationally.

In closing I'd like to tell you about the WWF gift to the earth program. A gift to the earth is a public celebration by WWF of a conservation action, which is both a demonstration of environmental leadership and a globally significant contribution to the protection of the living world.

We awarded WWF's gift to the earth to Parks Canada, in 2011—congratulations, Parks Canada—and in 2007, we made the gift to the earth award to the architects of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. We were very happy to celebrate that event with leaders from the federal and provincial governments, first nations, and other stakeholders.

We'd like to be back before this committee in five years with a new WWF gift to the earth, for your contributions arising from this plan. We stand ready to work collaboratively with government and industry to put an ambitious national conservation plan into action.

Once again, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share our views with you.

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Thank you so much. I will introduce the members of our committee who are with us today. It's a fraction of the committee that normally meets two times a week for two hours.

We have Hedy Fry, with the Liberal Party, and we have Monsieur Pilon and Monsieur Choquette, who are with the official opposition party, the NDP.

To my right are Mr. Lunney, from the area of Nanaimo, Mr. Toet from Manitoba, and me, Mark Warawa.

The first round of questioning will be seven minutes.

We will begin with Mr. Lunney.

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I welcome the witnesses to our session today. I appreciate the presentations you have taken time to prepare as well as the valuable time you are taking to be here to provide input to the committee and our work.

I wanted to just start with the B.C. Wildlife Federation. You have 40,000 members. You've been going quite a while in British Columbia. You've engaged a lot of people. Your members are all interested in the environment, but they also include groups that are hunters, anglers, and others, I understand.

May 15th, 2012 / 10:55 a.m.

Neil Fletcher Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

That's correct.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

You're donating over 300,000 hours per year to stewardship activities. We saw some of that work yesterday. Partnerships of people who have an interest in the environment are engaged in local habitat restoration and in all these discussions—hours and hours of discussion. Sometimes getting projects to move ahead takes a lot of work and planning, but nothing actually happens without involvement on the ground. I wanted to just acknowledge organizations that have taken such an interest and that actually get people on the ground working to improve the environment.

You've raised some interesting points in your presentation.

You're talking about the program of training. I believe that was in your presentation. You were talking about having trained 100 to 150 people, and they're doing about 40 projects. So you put them through a training program to understand how to do some work. They are doing about 40 projects focused on wetlands. Could you expand a little bit on what that particular activity is all about?

10:55 a.m.

Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

Neil Fletcher

Sure.

I am the coordinator for the wetlands education program. We run wetland-keeper workshops as well as a wetlands institute, which is a seven-day intensive workshop where we train community members from all walks of life. They include people who are doing stewardship work at a watershed level, first nations, and just keen volunteers who want to come out and learn more about wetlands stewardship. We provide them the resources and trainers to better implement projects on the ground.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Do you bring them to a central location in Vancouver here, or do you move around the province, where other people are?

10:55 a.m.

Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

Neil Fletcher

We move around the province.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

How many programs like this, the seven-day program, would you do?

10:55 a.m.

Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

Neil Fletcher

We do roughly five to six workshops a year. They attract about 20 to 30 participants per workshop.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

That's commendable.

We're hearing from witnesses that it's important to conserve. It's important to connect, as in wildlife corridors, and to restore habitat. We saw a lot of that yesterday and how important that is. One of our objectives is to connect people to the outdoors. Increasingly, where we have urbanization, we have urban populations and some young people growing up without a connection. They're connected in other ways, through electronic and social media and so on, but connecting to wildlife and outdoor activities, turning over a rock to understand what's under there, and just engaging with nature.... It's a concern to us. It is not only our young people but also many new Canadians. We're welcoming a quarter million people around the world who haven't necessarily grown up with the kind of interaction many Canadians have enjoyed with parks and so on.

I'll start with you, but maybe Guide Outfitters and others who are involved in actually working with people on the ground engaged in the environment would like to connect. Do you have ideas on how we can engage new Canadians and young people in these types of activities?

10:55 a.m.

Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

Neil Fletcher

Well, from our own experience, we run a Wild Kidz camp in the summer in two locations in the province. These are free camps that we provide with financial support from various funders. About 20 to 25 children will attend these camps. A lot of them have little to no experience outdoors. It's a five-day retreat for them, basically, and they get hands-on experience fishing, hiking, and doing nature activities.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Is there one particular area you're doing these camps, or is it around the province in different areas?

10:55 a.m.

Education Coordinator, Wetlands, B.C. Wildlife Federation

Neil Fletcher

It's around the province.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Great.