Evidence of meeting #12 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was buildings.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Ellen Burack  Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services
  • Shirley Jen  Senior Director, Real Property and Material Policy Division, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Berny Latreille  Director, Environmental Affairs, Department of the Environment

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

This is helpful, thank you. But if I'm looking at a list of products that are being acquired with a green view and see furniture listed, how does a piece of furniture qualify as green in terms of this effort?

Noon

Berny Latreille Director, Environmental Affairs, Department of the Environment

Different approaches are used for each type of commodity, because green for one thing may be very different from green for something else. Environment Canada has participated in some of the commodity teams that Ellen mentioned, when we have some technical expertise concerning where the industry is going in terms of the environmental attributes of certain products. This way, we can help define commodity by commodity what sorts of attributes we would like to see in the government's purchases.

For furniture, for instance—and I did not personally participate in that commodity team, so I can't speak with 100% certainty about all of the things that would constitute green furniture—it could be such things as percentage of recycled content in the material that is selected, or ease of disassembly, so that components can be reused; or where furniture has some wooden components in it, whether the wood comes, for instance, from sustainably harvested forests.

These factors are really considered commodity by commodity to make sure we're doing the best we can in all of those areas.

What's nice about the process is that line departments can then know, when they are using some of the purchasing instruments coming out of this, that they are buying green by default, and then our own contracting officers are not obliged to do all of that research themselves.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Thank you.

We just had four minutes left in that turn, so thank you, Ms. Hall Findlay.

Next is Madame Bourgeois, for eight minutes.

Noon

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you for being here today. I would like to understand clearly the specific role of each of your organizations.

If I understand correctly, PWGSC needs the support of the Treasury Board Secretariat to implement plans and priorities related to the greening of government buildings and it can also call on Environment Canada for its environmental expertise. Am I correct?

I believe that the greening of operations and the greening of procurement are two very different things. The greening of operations is aimed at making our buildings greener which, I suppose, is related to air quality, water quality and building envelope. Is that correct?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

That is one aspect of the greening of operations.

We have put together fairly recently a strategic framework to help us think about greening government operations. For that, we've identified four domains of activity: land, because we have a lot of land, as the federal government, and we need to be effective stewards of that land; buildings, as you mentioned; business, or what happens within the buildings, which might be green procurement or might be how we use our equipment, how much paper we consume--all those sorts of things are captured within our framework in that way--and then there is movement, which is travel, vehicles, ships, and so on.

So, it is much more than green buildings and green procurement.

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

You were talking about government lands. I understand that the government buys land and purchases land, which is being done by your department. I suppose that, when our government wants to buy land in order to build, you have to provide a technical assessment of that land.

Is that part of the greening process? Can you tell me briefly what this involves? Does that involve contaminants, for example?

12:05 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

Yes, I understand. In the context of our framework, the things that we consider relative to land are not necessarily the purchase of land, which I think was your direct question, but they are relative to land contamination. We have a contaminated sites program in which we deal with federal contaminated sites.

For example, for species, we use integrated pest management to deal with pests on our land and to avoid the unnecessary use of pesticides. We also have the possibility of looking for opportunities to improve our landscapes, for example, by planting more trees to absorb carbon and those kinds of things. There are a number of considerations relative to the area of land.

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

When...

Sorry, go ahead.

12:05 p.m.

Senior Director, Real Property and Material Policy Division, Treasury Board Secretariat

Shirley Jen

Hello, Madam Bourgeois. I only want to add to Ms. Burack's statements.

You'll recall that I was actually here on Tuesday of this week. We talked about the life cycle of an asset and that there are really four phases, which are planning, acquisition, the use of the asset, and the disposal phase. I think one of the things that we and Ellen are collectively working on is to try to find ways to plan for being green in each phase of the life cycle of an asset, to acquire, and to ask questions about what makes a green acquisition. What are we responsible for? What kinds of due diligence should we perform? During the use of an asset, for example, how do we use printers? What's the energy usage? Should we use different types of cleaning materials?

Finally, when it comes to disposal, we need to be responsible stewards. For example, we need to ensure that any buildings or properties we dispose of have been assessed for any contamination and that the contamination is addressed or disclosed before it is sold.

Does that help a little?

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

I understand. I know that you try to meet the LEED Gold standard to protect the health of people, which I strongly approve. However, another issue has been brought to my attention about this. It seems that builders find it difficult to meet your requirements for new buildings because your standards are extremely high.

I have before me a document relating to a building that should have been built in D’Estimauville in 2006. According to this document, PWGSC issued two tenders and, the last time, only four out of 19 bidders could meet part of the requirements for that building in D’Estimauville. This is rather strange. I am not trying to put you in a bind, I am just trying to understand.

Are your building requirements so high that our Canadian and Quebec companies are unable to meet them?

12:10 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

Obviously, Mr. Chairman, I can't speak to this specific example, and I know the member doesn't expect that.

Our standards are not unreasonably high. They are leadership, but they are not outside what is possible. Canadian firms compete and are successful across the country for the work we do. In many cases, we are very pleasantly surprised to find they can surpass our environmental expectations, even when we specify these high levels of performance, and I'm quite confident the market can support the objectives we have set for our green buildings.

I would note a number of provinces are also setting themselves standards, in some cases comparable, in other cases not comparable. I'll give the example of Manitoba, where they have a green building policy, so all new construction there will be LEED silver, plus some extra effort in the area of energy conservation. Ontario and British Columbia are also requiring LEED certification for a number of their activities, as is the case in the United States.

The industry really has been moving along quite nicely in terms of its ability to support these types of green building construction.

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Have I used all my time?

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Yes, you have.

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Very well. Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Mr. Warkentin, for eight minutes.