Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your invitation to speak to the committee.
I have with me today Mr. Ian Shugart, the deputy minister of Environment Canada, Alan Latourelle, who is the chief executive officer of Parks Canada, and Peter Sylvester of CEAA.
Mr. Chairman, 2010-11 will be a year in which we hope to emerge fully from the economic recession, wind down the stimulus program that has seen us come through this much better than many of our trading partners, and look ahead towards balancing our books once more.
With regard to the environment portfolio, we have come through the tough economic times with solid progress on several key environmental priorities.
Environment Canada's 2010-11 main estimates reference level will total $1.1 billion. While this gives a snapshot of the annual planned spending for the department, these main estimates, if approved by Parliament, outline more planned spending at the beginning of the year for my department than any main estimates in recent years. I will get into more detail in a minute.
The estimates for Parks Canada for 2010-11 total $805 million, a net increase of $185.7 million over the 2009-10 main estimates. The majority of the net increase relates to improvements and upgrades to national historic sites and visitor facilities, twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park, and for federal contaminated sites. I think it's fair to say that the investments made in our national parks system over the last several years are historic in size.
Mr. Chair, this year and next, Parks Canada will invite Canadians from across the country and visitors around the world to "Come Celebrate", come celebrate 125 years since the creation of Canada's first national park, come celebrate the centenary of the world's first national park service.
For the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the 2010-11 main estimates are $29 million, which is a reduction of $3 million from last year. It's related mostly to the agency's temporary funding to cover shortfalls in resources needed to support panel reviews prior to 2010-11. These resources were earmarked for sunsetting in 2010-11. I would, however, note that the funding for aboriginal consultations announced in Budget 2010 significantly closes this gap.
However, not reflected in the main estimates are a number of Budget 2010 items that are typically reflected in supplementary estimates or through the budget implementation bill.
The budget includes more than $190 million for a number of departments and agencies in new measures to support a cleaner and more sustainable environment and to help meet Canada's climate change objectives. This includes a range of investments, from the next generation renewable power initiative in the forestry sector, to a new permanent commitment of resources to the Great Lakes, which we will discuss in a moment.
Let me highlight some of our portfolio's activities, beginning with the Great Lakes initiative.
Last year, Canada and the United States celebrated the centennial of the Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States—a visionary treaty for its day, which has led to the creation of the International Joint Commission and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. I am very pleased that the governments of Canada and the United States are negotiating to strengthen the agreement.
In the meantime, the Government of Canada is taking decisive action to protect the water quality of the largest group of freshwater lakes on the planet. In fact, Budget 2010 includes $8 million per year, ongoing, to continue to implement the Great Lakes action plan.
With this commitment, current Environment Canada funding to address issues in the Great Lakes is now in excess of $28 million per year. This includes government spending of $48.9 million between 2008 and 2016 to accelerate the remediation of specific areas of concern in the Great Lakes region, as well as $30 million over five years to promote the cleanup of Lake Simcoe, which is part of the Great Lakes basin.
This funding is supplemented by an additional $22 million annually from other government departments, bringing the total that this government invests on an annual basis in the health of the Great Lakes to $50 million per year.
I would also remind the committee that federal infrastructure programs also contribute to the government's efforts in cleaning up the Great Lakes. Since 2007, the government has spent or committed to over $325 million for the Great Lakes on infrastructure programs that benefit the environment--most particularly, improving municipal waste water infrastructure.
Perhaps nowhere does the Government of Canada's infrastructure investment make more of a difference to the lives of Canadians today and for generations to come than the funds invested to improve the management of municipal waste water. In 2010, it is unacceptable that some municipalities continue to dump waste water into our rivers, lakes and shorelines. This government has taken decisive action—both in creating the standards and regulations that will mean cleaner rivers, lakes and shorelines, and in helping municipalities meet those standards.
It has taken years of hard work, but my provincial and territorial colleagues and I have developed a Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal waste water effluent. New draft regulations have been developed. They will be gazetted on Saturday, March 20.
I'm happy to report that under the Government of Canada infrastructure funds, including the Building Canada fund, green infrastructure fund, stimulus, and gas tax funds, over $3.25 billion has been spent or committed already for waste water and water infrastructure. That represents the federal contribution.
In fact, such projects are a top priority for these funds. Take the city of Hamilton, for example. Just this past weekend, on March 12, the Government of Canada committed $100 million through the economic action plan to upgrade a water treatment plant. Our investment levered support from the city and from the province. The end result is a $456 million investment that will protect water, remediate the harbour, ensure the city's sustainable growth, achieve the objectives of our municipal waste water treatment guidelines, and also significantly improve the health of the Great Lakes.
Mr. Chairman, the era of dumping raw sewage into our rivers, lakes, and coastal areas is coming to an end in Canada. We have a Canada-wide strategy on municipal waste water, and we are helping communities across Canada meet these new standards.
Let me turn briefly to some of the highlights from Parks Canada. The United Nations has declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Canada has made a major contribution by setting aside wilderness and water for the benefit of future generations. In fact, in the past few years, we have made remarkable strides. It took 121 years for Canada to set aside essentially 277,000 square kilometres of our nation as a system of national parks and national marine conservation areas.
Since 2006—since this government came to office—we have added an additional 45,500 square kilometres to the system and have taken actions that will result in a further expansion of 40,000 square kilometres. In total, since this government came to office, we have increased the size of the land set aside in this country for such purposes by 30%.
In addition, the Government of Canada has invested $275 million to improve the science, recovery, and overall implementation of the Species at Risk Act. Since 2000, more than 1,600 projects have been delivered under the habitat stewardship program to protect and to assist the recovery of species at risk. As an illustration, Parks Canada recently reintroduced the black-footed ferret to Canada after it had disappeared almost 30 years ago.
As I come to a close, these are a few of the highlights of a very broad and far-reaching portfolio. We will meet the changing needs and priorities of Canadians for weather forecasting. We must respond as well to new developments in the environment, changing technologies, and increasing public demand.
Budget 2010 includes $8 million over two years to support community-based environmental monitoring, reporting, and the collection of baseline data in the north. Another $18 million over two years will support the annual reporting of key environmental indicators, such as clean air, clean water, and greenhouse gas emissions.
We will also continue to ensure that chemicals that may pose risks to human health and the environment are managed safely through the Chemicals Management Plan.
We want to accelerate the pace of risk assessment and risk management to address the substances that have not yet been assessed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
When it comes to this government's stated intent to reduce the amount of red tape and bureaucracy that now encumbers the approval for large-scale resource energy projects, let us be crystal clear: we are not talking about any weakening of the environmental review process, especially when it comes to the oil sands.
We aim to improve the efficiency of the existing system in order to attract investment and encourage the creation of high-quality jobs. We will reduce duplication, not the stringency of our high standards.
In closing, the environment portfolio manages some of the issues that affect Canadians most directly in their daily lives, such as weather forecasting, and it includes some of the issues that will affect their lives for generations to come, including climate change and protecting biodiversity.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to be with the committee, and I welcome your questions.