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.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Nonetheless, it's still more than just permitting and perhaps using resources that might be better employed elsewhere. But I understand your position on the subject.

I did have another question for—

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Mark Warawa

Your time is up, Mr. Woodworth. It goes very quickly.

Ms. Duncan, you have five minutes. Welcome back.

November 1st, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all so much for coming. We really appreciate your time, your effort, and your testimony.

The 2010 changes to CEAA gave the minister the power to limit the scope of a project defined by a proponent that is subject to an environmental assessment. During the testimony, we heard the agency state that the minister has not yet used this power.

Mr. Bennett, I'm wondering about your opinion of this change.

12:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Dr. John Bennett

I don't think that stage is the time for a political decision. The public should have a chance to have some input and reaction to a project before the minister decides not to have a hearing or that it's going to be divided into pieces.

That's an unnecessary power that I think the minister should not have, nor exercise.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Who should make scoping decisions under CEAA? I'll ask you that question.

12:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Dr. John Bennett

Well, I think that needs to be made by the agency, but subject to an appeal, if those who are affected believe it should go further. As long as there's a process in which you can talk about whether or not a screening or scoping or hearing is going to happen, then it would be acceptable.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Okay. Several witnesses have agreed that federal environmental assessments should be broadened to include full consideration of economic and social issues, as well as environmental factors. They said this would facilitate an assessment of whether the project is in the public interest and it should go ahead.

Mr. Bennett, in your opinion, should CEAA be broadened to include a full consideration of economic and social factors?

12:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Dr. John Bennett

Yes, it should. We should be looking at how these things all fit together.

The limitation of the system is that it works on one project at a time. If you look at the development in the tar sands, we've had several environmental assessments. None of them have actually looked across the fence at what was next door and what the cumulative impact was going to be—and that's just in terms of the direct environmental impacts.

If the country has made a commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, then that should be a factor in determining how one project fits into another project before we go ahead with it. Right now we're looking at each project on its own. When we've raised the issues of greenhouse gases, we've been told, “Well, that's not part of this project. That's the government's commitment. They'll handle that. It doesn't affect this project.”

That's not acceptable. We need an integrated system that asks how this moves us forward in our overall objectives for the economy and the environment.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you.

If the agency were the single federal body responsible for project assessment, including environmental, economic, and social, would its capacity need to be increased to properly evaluate all aspects of the project?

12:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada

Dr. John Bennett

Absolutely. It has now been asked to take on the responsibility of several other departments. It's going to either need to import into its own operation the expertise those departments provided or it's going to have to hire consultants to supply it, so we have to invest in the agency to make it big enough and strong enough to do the work we want it to do. Right now it's being cut back rather than invested in.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Bennett.

I'm wondering if anyone has a differing opinion, the question being, should this be brought in to include economic and social factors?

12:40 p.m.

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

Terry Toner

I think obviously those need to be considered at the right stage, so it depends on the level of assessment you're talking about. If we are talking about a strategic assessment where you're starting to broaden your examination of an issue for an area or you're looking at a policy or you're looking at plans, that obviously is a place where that needs to be part of that discussion.

As you get into a project, if that has already been properly vetted then I think it needs to fit within the scope of how it fits within that policy decision that has already been made.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Would you like to include economic and social factors in EA?

12:45 p.m.

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

Terry Toner

I'd like to see them in, in the proper way, and a consideration of benefits, not just impacts.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

I don't have time to do this with you. If you're interested, you could submit to this committee what you consider would be the proper way.

I'll ask Ms. Jackson. How do you feel about economic and social factors being included in EA?