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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Chief.

Thank you, Mr. Chisholm. Your time is up.

Ms. Duncan, you have seven minutes, please.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for coming.

I'll begin with Mr. McGuinty.

We know that the new act renews key triggers for federal EA. No longer will federal money cause an EA. There will be fewer environmental assessments and they'll be narrower in scope.

According to the environment minister:

The new environmental assessment process is no different from the old environmental assessment process, except for the improvements that all three of us here today have listed for you.

He's referring to the ministers.

I wonder if you can comment on his statement, please.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Thanks for the question. This is exactly the kind of statement that should be subjected to the light of day and scrutiny through an impartial arm's-length, independent, objective, fact-based, science-based, and evidence-based process. That is why these changes should be hived off and referred directly to Canada's National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to conduct precisely that kind of ground-truthing, shall we say. There's a clear difference between the political rhetoric we've heard and the reaction on the ground.

In fairness, every stakeholder I have spoken to who's in favour of seeing this kind of process conducted is in favour of improvement. I don't think there's a single Canadian who's saying, “Yes, let's delay projects for the sake of delaying them. Let's make them more difficult and more costly.” Everyone wants to see improvement.

The question is, can we take what the ministers are saying at face value? With all due respect to the ministers, I don't, and I think most stakeholders don't. So it would be very apropos to send this to the national round table—just building on some of the comments Chief Atleo made, for example, when the question arose about consultation.

The national round table conducted a fabulous piece of work on aboriginal communities and non-renewable resource development. There's an entire section on the challenges of the consultation and how they might be overcome. This is exactly the kind of information the government would benefit from, in my view.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

In the absence of a national round table, what remaining institutions could perform the evidence-based consultative analysis you're suggesting, please?

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

In my view, having worked with hundreds and hundreds of wonderful members on the national round table, and over nine years with tens of thousands of Canadians who have participated in their processes, I don't think there is a substitute. I don't think the government by itself can conduct these consultations on these proposed changes. I don't think industry by itself can conduct these consultations.

There has to be an agora, some sort of meeting place or meeting point where these competing interests are brought together and we pick up on our common purpose of improving things. We find consensus where we can find it, and we admit that there are differences and there are tough choices to be made.

To suggest, for example, that this might be achievable by using the Internet isn't serious talk. It's not going to help Canadians come to a better understanding of the changes that are being proposed.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

Grand Chief Atleo, you have questioned how the government's consultation would be improved simply by increasing funding for it. You have said that the internationally recognized principle of free, prior, and informed consent must be applied before projects are approved.

The environment minister has said that the Conservative government will increase its consultations with first nations through the changes in the bill, with an additional $1.5 million in funding. Do you know how the government actually plans to improve consultations, beyond money?

7:40 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

I don't know. What I do know is that the government has already allocated $13.6 million to first nations consultation. As a threshold matter, only about $7.4 million, or just over half of that money, is actually allocated to first nations communities for consultation. The rest, as we understand it, is going to support the bureaucracy. Even worse, the funding goes to CEAA. None of it goes to DFO, the NEB, or the CNSC. We really don't know.

On the same note, we also learned, through DFO's report on plans and priorities, that funding for aboriginal programs has been cut by 47.5% this last year. So the issue of adequate consultation and accommodation comes under very serious question. We routinely register concerns about the need for proper consultation.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Grand Chief.

Grand Chief, you've been very clear. Can you comment on the government's claim that the repeal of CEAA will contribute to better environmental outcomes and “improve consultations with aboriginal peoples”?

I'm hoping Dr. Schindler will step in here, as will Mr. McGuinty.

7:40 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

As I'm alluding to here, there is not confidence, given the process leading up to the development of Bill C-38. The process for its very development has not been satisfactory, which has been stated more than once here already, such that the AFN must state that we're understandably very skeptical about any potential improvements.

The whole purpose of pursuing the crown and first nations gathering was to seek a return to a much more respectful relationship, whereby treaty rights and aboriginal title rights are respected and affirmed and where we jointly design processes going forward. That means agreeing on how to give effect to constitutionally protected rights for fish, the relationship to fish habitat and to water, and therefore to water quality. The previous processes were not acceptable, so there's a great concern with what is being suggested here.

However, a way forward as well, a solution, is that if we were to agree to take these elements, as we had suggested, remove them, and begin to work in earnest on them, first nations, as I said in my opening remarks at the January 24 crown gathering, are ready to do that work. The work rightfully belongs with first nations themselves, so that's what I would strongly recommend. Given that the AFN, even with the conversations we've had, the technical briefings...those do not constitute consultation. The deep work must be done with first nations. That's the hard work. The harder work is trying to suggest an easy way forward that is going to skip by this effort, and I fear that it's not a recipe for efficiency but rather one that suggests conflict.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Grand Chief.

Unfortunately, Ms. Duncan, your time has expired. We're almost a minute over.

We'll now move on to Mr. Allen.

May 29th, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I have just a couple of questions. I'd like to ask Mr. Denning a question, and then, Mr. Schindler, I have a couple of questions on your testimony as well.

Mr. Denning, you talked a little bit about double-hulled tankers. I also would like to understand what you see as the key safety requirements for ships on the west coast. I'm interested because we're having a lot of this debate on the east coast as well—I'm from New Brunswick. Do you see those as adequately protecting the public and the environment?

7:45 p.m.

Capt Fred Denning

The recommendations that came out of—

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Excuse me. We have a point of order by Ms. Duncan.

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm hoping that someone on the government side can point out to me where this is relevant in part 3.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Does somebody want to speak to that?

Ms. Rempel.