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Evidence of meeting #5 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was warawa.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Normand Radford
Penny Becklumb  Committee Researcher

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

I'd like to make a point at this juncture.

We have a very questionable situation whereby we have whips working on something. We're not sure whether your motion is technically out of order, given that the order should come from the House.

That being said, I think if we're going to work together as a committee, going forward—and we have a lot of work to do, and I think fundamentally we all want to do a good job as parliamentarians, putting aside our partisan interests—we have to work with a measure of good faith.

I don't know how many of you recall this, but at the last meeting I said I didn't mind chairing the committee while Mr. Bezan was away, as long as we're not taking votes that would sidetrack or preclude—or foreclose, as Mr. McGuinty said—the progress of the study on water and oil sands, which was first adopted at committee back in March.

I'm getting a sense, with all due respect—maybe this isn't your intention, and I don't want to prejudge it—that we're being railroaded into something to avoid something else. It may not be the case, but I remember that at the last meeting I said, “Mr. Bezan, I'll take the chair of the committee while you're away, but not if it's going to basically deny me a vote on an item of business that I have proposed.” There's that, plus the fact that there's a lot of confusion around whether this motion is out of order, what the whips are going to do.

I think this is really a plea for cooperation. Maybe we could strike from the motion that we have to start Tuesday, because when we say we have to start Tuesday, I'm getting the sense that we're basically shoving any other business off the table.

That's just my comment. Mr. Warawa. You can take issue with it.

The floor is to Mr. Calkins right now.

February 24th, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

To address some of the concerns you have, I get the sense from being here today that we're putting the cart before the horse on a lot of issues, because what this committee seems to be doing today is advising the subcommittee on what to report back to this committee. So it seems a little bit odd from that perspective.

We also know, we clearly know, that we have a legislative responsibility and Marleau and Montpetit basically says that committee shall proceed with legislative responsibilities when they are before the committee. It says here in section 129, “Five years after this section comes into force, a committee of the House of Commons, of the Senate or both Houses of Parliament is to be designated or established for the purpose of reviewing this Act.”

This committee is struck in accordance with its mandate to review matters pertaining to the environment and sustainable development, which is where the Species at Risk Act is.

We know we're five months behind on a legislative review. There has been a lot of speculation from the other side about legislation coming forward to change CEAA and that somehow this legislation is going to be changed outside the context of Parliament. Has something happened in the context of the Parliament of Canada that I am not aware of that allows a law to be changed before going before Parliament? Because that seems to be the allegation being made across the floor.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Mr. Bigras—

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

These are the questions I have. I'm not done, Mr. Chair.

I would ask this. Mr. Jean was here, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, clearly willing to bring forward names of people to discuss your particular motion, Mr. Chair, when you were sitting as the vice-chair. I don't think there is anybody here who is trying to railroad you or railroad your motion. I'd be very interested to go up to Fort McMurray and take a look at what's happening up there. I'm an Albertan. It's of great interest and concern to me, and to my constituents as well. It affects our province. It affects our entire country.

Yes, we have other obligations, international obligations that need to be looked at, but we have a bird in the hand and we're sitting here speculating about birds in the bush. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. This committee has the jurisdiction to study the Species at Risk Act legislation. The precedent has been set in the previous Parliament, where the committee undertook the review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

It makes no sense, because what's going to happen, Mr. Chair—and we talk about this 22-day work frame—if we don't get to work at looking at the Species at Risk Act? I can tell you right now that on Tuesday next week all we're going to do is have the same meeting we had today in response to the report that will be submitted by the subcommittee on agenda and procedure that is held the day before. Then we'll be at the same point in time, where we could actually be doing something constructive on behalf of biodiversity in our country, of species that are at risk in our country, and it's mandated by previous legislation that we review this legislation at this particular point in time.

I am all in favour of moving ahead. It's not a point to be obstinate or to try to railroad this committee. It is something we can do and move forward and do and make this committee do something more productive than sitting around talking about agenda and procedure items and jockeying for that position.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Mr. Warawa.

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Chair, I want to make it very clear that the government does support a water study. As you pointed out, the last Parliament ended with a look at water and the oil sands, and we look forward to further witnesses coming and further discussion on that.

It has resulted in the motion that I presented two weeks ago. The government recognizes the legislative requirement to do a SARA review. I have found it frustrating that this is not moving forward when we do have a legislative requirement and the government supports this. The whips of the opposition need to get together and support this. It is a legislative requirement.

As I pointed out a number of times today, we have a limited number of meetings, approximately 22 meetings, so I was trying to move the agenda along. But I also want to work collaboratively with our members in this committee.

We have heard concerns that they want to allow the opposition whips to meet with the government whip and agree to move this forward. It's important that this move forward, so I encourage the members here representing the opposition to talk to their whips and tell them to move this forward.

I then will back off and remove this motion, but again, the clock is ticking and we have meetings next week that we need to prepare for. This week, we are meeting today and we are meeting on Thursday, but what are we going to do next week? Monday, we have the steering committee. Tuesday, we'll have a report from the steering committee and we'll be rehashing what we're doing today. So what are we going to do on Thursday? I was proposing that we start SARA. I'm open then to start a water study.

You yourself, or Chair James Bezan, with the clerk, have the witnesses' names. We need to trust the chair, and I would then propose that we plan for Tuesday or Thursday of next week. Likely Tuesday we'll be hearing from the steering committee, so Thursday of next week we can begin the water study, start moving on that and use constructively the limited number of weeks we have. At this point, it seems we're stalled, and I think there is a desire from everybody here that we start moving and start having productive meetings.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Thank you, Mr. Warawa. I appreciate that.

Mr. McGuinty, and then Mr. Bigras.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

I am sorry, Mr. Chair, I didn't understand the import of Mr. Warawa's comments. Could you just recap?

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

My understanding is that instead of proposing that we start Tuesday with the review of the Species at Risk Act, on Tuesday we essentially discuss what the steering committee has come up with, approve it, amend it, or whatever; and then, Thursday, we start with the water study.

Obviously we are going to have to get to the Species at Risk Act, especially once the whips have decided when to refer it to us, and so on. So Mr. Warawa essentially is being flexible on this and is suggesting that we all speak to our whips and push them to move this thing along, because he is saying, and I agree, that we all really want to get down to work at this committee.

That is, as I understand it, the synopsis of Mr. Warawa's comments. Is that correct?

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

So is Mr. Warawa withdrawing his motion?

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Essentially. That's my sense of it.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Yes.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Is that right? Thank you very much.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Mr. Bigras.

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

I agreed with Mr. Warawa regarding the principle at issue here, but it was important to deal with the technical problem. I think we have just done that. Ultimately, we will achieve the same result, and that is what matters.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Madame Duncan.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I just wonder if we could also encourage our whips to discuss when they're bringing forward the review of CEAA.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Yes, of course. I imagine we can do that.

Mr. McGuinty.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Just to follow up on Mr. Calkins' positive remarks about the need to do this review on SARA, a five-year legislative review, I think everyone is in complete agreement that we have to do this, and we will do this, but the question I was trying to pose earlier was what other reviews are there? What other reporting requirements are there right now in the full ambit of what Environment Canada is responsible for, both domestically and internationally?

We don't know, and you're asking us to make a decision in a vacuum. It's important to proceed with the five-year review. We want to proceed with the five-year review, but why should we go forward with SARA first, over some other report that may be due?

That's all we're asking. If the government can help us, please, by calling officials and getting just a lineup of what we have to do in the next six months or year, what's forthcoming—or three months, or 22 meetings—maybe when the steering committee meets we'll be better placed to say okay, it's SARA first, or it's oil and water second, or some other report that's due, third. We don't even have that information disclosed to us. It's kind of hard to make a decision in a vacuum.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

We'll go to Mr. Bigras.

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Could we ask Mr. Warawa to give the steering committee some sort of table? We are not asking for specific dates, but rather a general idea so as to facilitate the committee's work. If he tells us that an amendment to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be tabled in the next two months, we could plan and organize our work better and target the month of June, depending on the government's priorities.

At the moment, we are totally in the dark about all of this. We really do not know where the government is headed legislatively. And we should not forget that generally speaking government bills have priority. At the moment, we do not know what issues should have what priority. I fail to see how we can move forward as things stand at the moment.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Mr. Warawa and Ms. Becklumb have agreed to provide some guidelines at the steering committee meeting so that we can plan our schedule properly. Everyone agrees on this.

Under "Other Business", there is a reference to the upcoming report of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy on carbon pricing. I do not know who suggested that. Was it Mr. Warawa?

Ms. Becklumb.

10:30 a.m.

Committee Researcher

Penny Becklumb

I suggested that as well, simply because it is expected to be coming soon from the national round table. It may be something the committee wants to review.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia

Are there any other comments?

Mr. McGuinty.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

There's a really good report the NRT put out recently on commercial building retrofits and commercial building grants for energy efficiency purposes. I don't know if folks want to bring in the NRT to talk about carbon pricing. They have been doing some good strong work.

I didn't think about the first report the analyst mentioned, but certainly there was a good report out, I think a week ago. Mr. Warawa would know it. I haven't seen a copy of it yet. It was on energy efficiency and commercial buildings and the desperate need for new fiscal measures.