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

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you.

Are you aware of whether there's been any assessment of the adequacy of the environmental assessment process in each province and territory?

10:10 p.m.

Prof. William Amos

The simple answer is that environmental assessment is patchy across this country. Some provinces do it reasonably well; other provinces do it relatively poorly. It would require a province-by-province and territory-by-territory analysis of the various laws in question. But it's clear to us that one has to understand environmental assessment in this country.

It's not a matter of whether it is a provincial responsibility or a federal responsibility. What we have generated over the past 30 years is an interconnected web of environmental assessment processes that have developed over time so that there can be as little duplication as possible. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada noted in 2010, in the MiningWatch case, that there are already provisions in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to ensure that duplication and overlap don't occur.

We've been around this mulberry bush, and we know there is a need to reduce overlap and duplication. This kind of work can always be improved. At the end of the day, there is a role for federal environmental assessment, an important role, particularly in regard to its constitutional jurisdiction over different aspects of the environment. But we need to ensure that we have both levels working together, because the entirety of Canada's environment is not protected when one level of government is doing the environmental assessment. We need both levels of government doing it, and we need them to do it efficiently.

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Amos.

Commissioner Vaughan, do you think the provinces are ready to take on the larger role in environmental oversight that has been handed to them by Ottawa?

10:10 p.m.

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

Scott Vaughan

You would have to ask the provinces.

What I would say in answer to your previous question to Mr. Amos is that I know that our provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick have looked at the provincial environmental assessments and have said there have been challenges in their implementation of the provincial requirements. So there are already challenges they are facing.

I think one of the other areas the committee may want to look at, in the clarification of the regulations, is substitution and equivalency. Those, again, will be critical areas.

10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

How can that be done? If the government hasn't done an assessment of adequacy, how is it going to determine equivalency?

10:15 p.m.

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

Scott Vaughan

I think that would be for the government to answer.

10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

I agree with Mr. Amos that this should be hived off. But if it does go forward, I have concerns about how it's going to be put into practice. For example, Ottawa's own experience with the oil sands shows that the direct effects of resource development can be spread far and wide and can accumulate significantly as new projects come on line.

Also, how will Ottawa define the kinds of small projects that will no longer get environmental hearings? What does “directly impacted” mean, and how will it be put into practice?

10:15 p.m.

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

Scott Vaughan

Again, I think that would be for the government to clarify. My understanding of the bill is that the NEB will provide public consultations for the public that is directly affected by a project. There are transboundary effects that are also in the bill. The question then is what “directly affected” means in terms of the geographic scope of those consultations. I think that's, again, a question that needs clarification.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Ms. Duncan.

Thank you, Mr. Vaughan.

We'll go to Ms. Ambler, for five minutes, please.

May 29th, 2012 / 10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of our witnesses who are here this evening.

Chief Jules, I wanted to talk to you about one of the four key pillars of the responsible resource development plan in Bill C-38, which is to strengthen consultation with aboriginal Canadians. We want to better integrate the consultation process with aboriginals by designating a lead department or agency to be the point agency, or the federal coordinator, for all projects. How will it help aboriginal communities to have one point of contact during the consultation process rather than having to repeat the same message to many different departments?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

That's the answer in and of itself. I used to be an adviser on the Auditor General's advisory panel on first nations issues, and when you're dealing with first nations issues, you have a myriad of reports. You've got numerous federal government departments to contend with on a daily basis, and just having one lead on these issues would be a tremendous burden off the shoulders of the local first nations communities.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

A simplification, I suppose?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

That is a big factor. It would be very helpful?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

That's right, it would be.