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

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

I call the meeting to order.

Colleagues, we're beginning about 45 minutes later than planned because of a vote in the House of Commons. We certainly have a quorum now and we're ready to go with our witnesses. I thank them for waiting 45 minutes.

We have with us today officials from the Department of Public Works, Treasury Board, and the Department of the Environment.

Our objectives today are to flesh out some of our questions on what we call the greening of government operations government-wide, and on real estate properties management. There is some commonality there, but there is also some non-commonality. The subject matter of the meeting will perhaps swing a little bit from issue to issue, but I know the evidence will be helpful.

Is any one of the witnesses prepared to give an opening statement about their own responsibilities? It looks like Ms. Burack is. That's great. We're starting with the Department of Public Works and Government Services.

You are the director general of the office of greening government operations. Please proceed.

11:50 a.m.

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

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to introduce my colleagues. Shirley Jen is from Treasury Board Secretariat, and Berny Latreille is from Environment Canada.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you to discuss the greening of government operations.

As you know, Public Works and Government Services is the policy lead for greening government operations. This was agreed amongst key departments in 2008. This role involves developing overall policy direction and guidance, facilitating information sharing, setting reporting standards and reporting on progress.

Environment Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, and Natural Resources Canada also have essential roles to play in providing guidance and advice in their respective areas of expertise. These include priority-setting, use of the regulatory tool box, technical expertise, and appropriate integration with the federal sustainable development strategy in the case of Environment Canada; government-wide reporting and levers for directing and guiding action in the case of Treasury Board Secretariat; and although not here today, expertise in greenhouse gas emissions reporting and energy and natural resources issues in the case of Natural Resources Canada.

Public Works is responsible for effective leadership of this horizontal endeavour, while we and our three partners are responsible for creating a solid framework. But all departments and agencies across the government have responsibility for changing the environmental footprint of federal operations.

While we recognize that more can always be done, we have made significant progress in recent years, particularly with respect to green procurement, green buildings, and greening the fleet. I would like to briefly highlight some of our achievements in these areas.

First, on green procurement, a policy approved by Treasury Board on green procurement came into effect in April 2006. In March 2008 the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that satisfactory progress had been made towards its implementation. As of March 2009, Public Works has developed green procurement plans to reduce the environmental impact of 67 different types of goods and services purchased by the government. Plans for an additional 53 are also under way. This planning has allowed us to create green standing offers for a range of commodities, including IT hardware, office supplies, imaging services, printers, and furniture, making it easy and cost-effective for any department to make green purchases.

With respect to federal buildings, progress has been made on a number of fronts. For example, many departments and agencies are using the Canada Green Building Council's leadership in energy and environmental design, or LEED, tool. Public Works has a commitment to a gold standard for all our new construction, and a silver standard for all our major renovations.

Parks Canada, as another example, has built the first LEED platinum building in Canada. Public Works has built the first LEED gold office building north of the 60th parallel. Natural Resources Canada will be building a lab to the platinum standard.

We have made excellent use of such programs as the federal building initiative. Since 1991, one-third of total floor space has received energy management improvement through this program, primarily through the use of innovative financing.

We've also had success with greening our fleet. Flowing from a Treasury Board directive, as of the closing days of 2008-09, 97% of the executive vehicle fleet is considered green. In 2007-08, more than one-third of newly purchased departmental vehicles were either hybrids or vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels.

Moving forward, departments are actively working together to establish a common framework for greening government operations. Our collective objective is continuously to improve the environmental performance of federal operations and to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. We are now ready to answer your questions.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Thank you.

Do any witnesses from the other departments have statements? No? Okay.

That's a good start. We'll now go to our members.

Madame Folco.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

It's an eight-minute round, Madame Folco.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

I do not intend to use all my time and, if there is any left when I am finished, I will give the balance to my colleague, Ms. Hall Findlay.

Thank you for your statement which was rather brief.

I have a few concerns. As a member of the committee, I remember that, a little more than two years ago, we heard representatives of the Office of Greening Government Operations, after which we produced a report for the Minister. During that session, we learned that the office could make recommendations but did not seem to have the power to follow up in order to make sure that other government organizations implemented those recommendations. In short, it could not produce results.

I do not know who this question is for but I would like to know if there is a government authority that would be able to take effective steps, to implement evaluation criteria, to carry out assessments, to let Public Works and Government Services know when an organization has not taken action and to make it change its operations in order to make them greener.

11:55 a.m.

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

Ellen Burack

I will try to answer your question and my colleagues can then add to it if need be.

My predecessor was here about two years ago with a number of colleagues from the partner departments. And you're right that the office of greening government operations, and Public Works more generally, does not have the ability to compel action on the part of departments. That said, there are a number of instruments that do bind departments. I mentioned one in the context of my statement--a Treasury Board directive relative to the executive fleet.

The policy on green procurement is an excellent example. It is a Treasury Board approved policy, and all departmental heads are responsible for implementing the policy within their departments. In addition to the requirement to implement what's in the policy, they also have the responsibility to report on their activities relative to that, through their departmental performance reports.

Guidance was provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat this year for how that's to be done. That first round of reports containing that information has yet to be completed. But for the current fiscal year there will be departmental reports relative to their obligations under that policy, to give you one example.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Thank you.

By current fiscal year, do you mean the one that is ending next week?

March 26th, 2009 / 11:55 a.m.

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

Yes. Departments will be required to report in 2008-09, so it is this fiscal year that is ending. They will be required to report in their departmental performance reports against their green procurement objectives.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Would this report be available to us, as a committee?

11:55 a.m.

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

Shirley Jen

The reports on plans and priorities, as well as the departmental performance reports, are available to all Canadians. I believe they're tabled in Parliament, in fact.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that this report be brought to the attention of our clerk and that as this committee writes its report we take into account whatever that report has to say about the Treasury Board directives and the policy on green procurement.

Thank you.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Thank you.

You have four minutes left.

Noon

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

I have not been on this committee until recently. Could somebody elaborate a bit on what green actually means? I know that's a very big question, but when you're talking about procurement and IT...printers I can understand...[Inaudible--Editor]....

I ask this question because a while back there seemed to be a marketing blitz in the consumer realm for anything that was green. We know there was a lot of somewhat misleading misrepresentations of what green actually was. If you can elaborate a little on your criteria for green product, that would be very helpful.

Noon

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

Ellen Burack

I can speak to that a little bit, and Berny may have something to add.

In the policy on green procurement in particular, there is very consciously not an effort to identify a green product versus a non-green product. The policy aims to integrate environmental considerations into the decision-making process around procurement. It aims to integrate it into the planning, into the purchasing, into the use, and into the disposal elements of procurement.

With respect to planning, for example, it encourages people to question whether a thing is actually needed, whether ten are actually needed, whether everybody needs that kind of thing—those sorts of questions. Then in the purchasing there would be different kinds of questions. There are commodity teams put together with experts across government to help identify what the environmental considerations should be throughout the life cycle, and these are integrated into the commodity plans as they are developed. At the end of the day, the instrument offers products for which these considerations have been integrated.