Evidence of meeting #3 for Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-38 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

  • Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
  • Fred Denning  President, The British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd.
  • David Schindler  Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual
  • Terry Quinney  Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
  • William Amos  Director, University of Ottawa - Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, Ecojustice Canada
  • Ron Bonnett  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
  • Kevin Obermeyer  President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority
  • Scott Vaughan  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Clarence T. Jules  Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

9:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

I do, Mr. Chair.

I apologize for interrupting. It was brought to our attention that they want the committee to stay very strictly to part 3. The parliamentary secretary has said that the tanker traffic provision is 19(1) of the new CEAA, and that provision reads:

(1)The environmental assessment of a designated project must take into account the following factors:

(a) the environmental effects of the designated project, including the environmental effects of malfunctions or accidents that may occur in connection with the...project and any cumulative environmental effects that are likely to result from the designated project in combination with other physical activities that have been or will be carried out;

I think this is a stretch. I think this is relevant to page 98 of the budget, and it's not the budget implementation bill.

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

We'll hear from Mr. Anderson and then Ms. Rempel on the same point of order.

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. McGuinty clearly wasn't prepared when he came tonight. Maybe Ms. Duncan should have checked a little bit deeper.

I'd like to go through the half dozen acts that impact shipping, and perhaps she can look these up as well. Part of the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, speaks specifically of ships complying with provisions and orders that are given to them. The Fisheries Act speaks of vessels regularly throughout it, including ships. It speaks of marine inspectors and their authority, and the expectation that vessel operators cooperate with them. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which is being amended, talks directly about the operation of ships. This may not have something directly to do with it, but also the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act talks about shipping as well. I don't think we have to deal directly with that today. The Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, which is being amended, also addresses the issue of safety in navigable waters. Fisheries protection and pollution prevention also address issues of shipping.

I think we've got a number of places that we can talk about shipping and vessels. If you'd like me to go on, I could get into quite a bit more detail on each of those acts, and we could have that discussion as well, but perhaps we should just let the witness go ahead with his presentation.

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you.

Ms. Rempel.

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

My colleague stole the words right out of my mouth.

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Now we have theft.

Thank you, Ms. Duncan. I appreciate your point of order. I understand what motivated you to make that point of order.

It's my understanding that the environmental approval process for something like a pipeline that is going to transport oil from an origin source all the way through would involve various aspects. My understanding is that part of that approval process would be that nobody would build a pipeline to a coast if shipping wasn't part of the entire approval process. I would imagine there would be some salient points of this. The question is whether or not it's in the scope of part 3 of the particular legislation, which is what our mandate is.

Mr. Anderson has cited several passages in part 3 of the bill that do pertain, in a broader context, to shipping. I think out of interest and respect for the witness who is already here, I'm going to allow his presentation to continue. However, I will be very focused. I would ask that we focus on those relevant and salient points pertaining to the mandate the subcommittee has.

Thank you very much, colleagues, for your points of order. It was much appreciated and very helpful to the chair.

Please continue, Mr. Obermeyer.

9:35 p.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In the interest of time, I'm going to jump ahead slightly.

I think the question comes down to why have pilots at all. In short, it's a country's insurance against a marine disaster. By placing a pilot on the vessel, you're ensuring that at least one member of the bridge team has an in-depth knowledge of the local dangers, is not fatigued, and is a knowledgeable resource in the event that something does occur. Last, the pilot adds an additional level of safety on the vessel.

There are usually three levels of safety on every vessel. The first level of safety is the ship itself. A well-maintained, well-run ship will provide this first level. By tankers coming in as vetted, that is a certain level. The second level of safety is the bridge team, the master and the officers. A well-trained and engaged crew will provide that second level of safety. The third level of safety is the pilot himself. The bridge crew is more wary if there's a stranger in their midst, and the pilot not knowing the bridge team is just as wary. This is a positive situation, as everybody will remain on their toes.

For most vessels, that's where it stops, but where tankers are concerned, there's a fourth level of safety when an escort tug is utilized, as the escort has the ability to assist the vessel should there be a failure.

In closing, I've been with the pilotage authority for 13 years, and during this time there has only been one oil pollution incident with a pilot on board. This was a freighter that happened to be pushed back onto the dock during a squall and a piece of metal punched the ship's side. There has never been an incident involving a tanker, and we've never had an oil spill from a tanker on this coast.

Thank you.

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Obermeyer.

Now we will hear from Mr. Vaughan, who has much experience in testifying before the committee, for up to 10 minutes, sir.

9:40 p.m.

Scott Vaughan Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Thank you, Chair. I hope it will be under 10 minutes.

I also hope it will be useful for the committee to refer to three past audits of relevance to the current deliberations. As you can understand, I cannot comment on any policy matters related to this discussion, so I hope it is relevant.

In 2009 we examined how the government's fish habitat policy was being implemented. We noted that protecting fish habitat was critical to safeguard places where fish spawn, feed, grow, and live, as well as to support aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and to protect the quality of fresh water for Canada's lakes and rivers.

We found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada could not demonstrate that the fish habitat was being adequately protected. For instance, Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not measure habitat loss or gain. It also had limited information on the state of fish habitat—that is, on fish stocks, the amount and quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish, and overall water quality.

We reported that past streamlining efforts to focus limited resources on projects that pose a higher risk to habitat showed little signs of success. For example, monitoring of mitigation measures by DFO was rarely done. We also reported that Environment Canada actively enforced only two of the six pollution regulations under the Fisheries Act.

Turning to our past work presented to Parliament related to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, in 2009 we examined the overall implementation of the act. Our findings were both positive and negative. For comprehensive studies and panel reviews we observed compliance with the act's requirements. However, various problems hindered the most common category of assessment: screenings.

Screenings are currently used to assess environmental effects for a wide range of projects. These are often small projects; however, screenings are also currently conducted for more significant undertakings such as mines, dams, and some offshore energy development projects under a certain production threshold. Although mitigation of negative environmental effects were required in over 75% of the screenings we reviewed, there was little evidence that mitigation measures were actually completed.

In the fall of 2011, we examined how cumulative environmental effects as referenced in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were being considered. Specifically, we examined projects in the oil sands region of northern Alberta.

The audit found information gaps over the past decade—gaps in scientific data that is needed to determine the combined environmental effects on multiple projects in the same region. These include impacts on water quantity and quality, air quality, on fish and fish habitat, as well as more general effects on land and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

We noted the significant progress the government has made in announcing in 2011 a new environmental monitoring system for the region. This system would be capable of establishing baseline environmental data critical to understanding the cumulative impact of projects.

In conclusion, let me suggest some questions the subcommittee members may wish to explore in relation to the changes to CEAA and the Fisheries Act.

First, the subcommittee may wish to consider reviewing what types of projects will be included and excluded under the proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, including the threshold or criteria used to establish the project list. The subcommittee may wish to explore whether certain projects now requiring a screening-level environmental assessment will be excluded from the list of designated projects to be finalized with the regulations. Examples that come to mind include offshore oil and gas projects and activities, certain mining developments, and aquaculture.

The subcommittee may also wish to identify how assessment of cumulative effects will be carried out, in light of substitution and equivalency to be handled by the provinces.

Finally, on the proposed changes to fish habitat, a general question is how the proposed focus on commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries will align with assessing aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems more broadly.

Mr. Chair, that concludes my statement.

Thank you.

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you very much, Mr. Vaughan. You came in at half time.

Mr. Jules is next for up to 10 minutes, please.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:45 p.m.

Clarence T. Jules Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My name is Clarence Manny Jules. I'm a former chief of the Kamloops Indian Band, and currently I'm chair of the First Nations Tax Commission. I want to thank all of you for this opportunity to make this presentation.

As you are undoubtedly aware, one of the areas that I am promoting is the first nations property ownership initiative, which this committee had supported and which was in the last budget announcement in March.

As a chief, obviously I'm very familiar with a lot of the issues that have been discussed here this evening, but what I want to focus on is the fact that first nations have to be an integral part of the economy. The sustainability of Canada's living standards, pensions, and social programs depends upon improving the productivity of first nations.

The failure of our investment market means that first nations do not share in the full benefits of resource development. Generally, about 10% of the total economic and fiscal benefit of resource development is provided through royalties. The remainder is paid out as salaries, wages, and profits, and corporate taxes paid by resource companies and their suppliers.

The inability of first nations to share in investment makes it more difficult to reach agreement on many issues and projects. First nations simply do not receive the benefit, only the costs.

We proposed solutions to this committee to address these issues: develop and pass the first nations property ownership act and develop and implement the first nations fiscal relationship.

Supporters of the first nations property ownership initiative mostly believe that the federal government's proposal to streamline the environmental assessment process will help address market failure on reserves. Parallel systems make it difficult to hire professionals, and they create the need to duplicate many procedures. They lack single points of accountability. Consequently, they often add to the administrative and compliance costs, and they may actually result in reduced standards of environmental protection and oversight.

An improved first nations fiscal relationship would amplify the benefits of FNPO. In a typical government setting, investment creates jobs, business opportunity, and government revenues. This creates capacity for improving local services and infrastructure. Improved local services and infrastructure support further improvements in the investment.

The current fiscal relationship for first nations cuts short this cycle. We can fix this short-circuit by creating clear and exclusive revenue authorities and expenditure responsibilities for all governments towards first nations. First nations need more revenue authorities that are tied to local investment successes, such as my proposal for a property transfer tax. These need to be linked to service responsibilities. Transfers need a transparent formula linked to a national standard.

I believe very strongly that if first nations are not involved in the Canadian, and therefore global, economy, you will see in the future many more “conflicts”, I guess, over resource development and expansion in the country. First nations, in order to be part and parcel of the economy, need to be part of the solution.

Thank you very much.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you very much, Mr. Jules.

That concludes our opening comments. We will now proceed to the rounds of questions.

From the Conservative side, we will start with Ms. Rempel, for seven minutes.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for being part of this process and being with us at such a late hour tonight. It's much appreciated, the time you've taken away from your families to be here today.

I'll start with you, Mr. Vaughan. Thank you for coming today and for your testimony, refreshing us on some of the work you've already done.

I want to speak to the oil sands monitoring project that you brought up. It's my understanding that the review you completed in the fall of 2011 did not include the oil sands monitoring framework that was announced in February of this year. Is that correct?

9:50 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

It was included in the sense that we had referenced it as a subsequent event to the period of the audit. We also included it in the perspective at the beginning of that report, where I said what I've just said now: significant progress on behalf of the government.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Were you aware that since we've announced this, over the next five years it will add up to 22 new water sites, 11 new air sites, and over 7 new biodiversity sites?

In your research of the monitoring requirements related to the oil sands, would you say that it's good progress?