Evidence of meeting #8 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 environmental.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • John Bennett  Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada
  • Jennifer Jackson  Executive Director, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association
  • Sandra Schwartz  Vice-President, Policy Advocacy, Canadian Electricity Association
  • Terry Toner  Representative, Canadian Electricity Association, and Director, Environmental Services, Nova Scotia Power Inc.

November 1st, 2011 / 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate all of our guests coming in today to discuss this very important subject. I'm actually serving on the infrastructure committee. I have an interest in infrastructure, so most of my questions will be for Ms. Jackson.

In 2009, amendments were made to the exclusion list regulations for infrastructure projects. Further amendments to the act in 2010 made permanent these exclusions via the schedule to the act.

What has been the experience with the exclusions for infrastructure projects?

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association

Jennifer Jackson

What has been the experience?

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Yes. What has been your experience with the exclusions for infrastructure projects?

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association

Jennifer Jackson

The projects are still continuing, and they're still being captured, if necessary, under the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, depending on other triggers, depending on whether there's involvement of federal lands or there are concerns about fishery habitat or migratory birds. So to a large extent those changes have not really affected our sector.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Have there been any other environmental risks that have been managed for these projects?

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association

Jennifer Jackson

There's always a host, a myriad, of environmental risks associated with these projects.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Sure. As I said before, I'm more concerned with the infrastructure side, so I find it quite fascinating to look at a different facet of it.

Are there other types of projects that might merit a similar approach?

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Water and Wastewater Association

Jennifer Jackson

I'm not a transportation expert, but that would be something that could be looked at.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Great.

This is a question for the Canadian Electricity Association, Mr. Chair.

Do you support the changes made to the environmental assessment in the 2010 amendments to the act?

12:20 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Electricity Association, and Director, Environmental Services, Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Terry Toner

Yes, we're very pleased to see that as a very good start towards identifying some of the root issues and making some step changes. There are more changes to be made, but we are encouraged by those changes.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Can you give an example of one of the changes and why you were satisfied with it?

12:20 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Electricity Association, and Director, Environmental Services, Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Terry Toner

While they are still imperfect, I think the changes related to a comprehensive study and the 365-day limit, along with the other short limit of 90 days for the other section of it, at least provide some degree of capping on that. There are still lots of processes that happen within there, and there may be opportunities to further optimize that for smaller projects or projects that are just on the edge of those triggers, but that is a very helpful step forward.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

You mentioned this might help some smaller projects, and I noticed that earlier in your comments you mentioned that some short-term projects might go ahead, given some of the timelines, and that other more long-term projects might not go ahead.

Can you give me an example of what kinds of things you might get as smaller projects?

12:20 p.m.

Representative, Canadian Electricity Association, and Director, Environmental Services, Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Terry Toner

The best example I can give is that most utilities--though not all--have an obligation to serve. At least we in eastern Canada do. We must provide electricity every minute of every day, so when someone flicks the switch on, we have to be there to provide it. Therefore, we choose which projects to bring forward based on whether or not we can meet that mandate.

So for projects that we might think would be better overall but that we just don't think we'll be able to get completed or get through the process in time...we still have to provide electricity. We're doing that through a variety of other means, not just ours. In many cases, there could be a call for electricity from independent power producers or through other means. So it's not restricted just to our own utilities.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

So when some might suggest that we have a longer review process, say one that might take four years, there is an actual social cost to the people who are depending on this kind of power in their communities.