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Evidence of meeting #25 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was parks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Keenan  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment
Mike Wong  Executive Director, Ecological Integrity Branch, Parks Canada Agency
Robert McLean  Executive Director, Habitat and Ecosystem Conservation, Department of the Environment

March 8th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair,

Thank you to all the witnesses for appearing here today.

The chair pointed out earlier that you're not obligated to follow up in writing on things, but picking up on Ms. Rempel's and Mr. Toet's questions, it would be really useful for all of us if you did come up with other names or organizations or themes of what kinds of stakeholders we need to hear from. That would be useful for all of us. We're here today trying to develop a framework or a scope for our study, so the more information we can get to narrow that or focus it, the better.

Also, picking up on Ms. Liu's request about the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, that report was about conservation in Canada, and it had 20 recommendations. I'd be worried we'd be duplicating some of the work there. So I would find it very useful to have an update on where we are with regard to those recommendations and whether some of them have been achieved. That would really help us with our scope.

I have a series of questions, which I don't think I need long answers to, just to help us again figure out where we are here. Can you tell me which federal department is mainly responsible for relations with provinces on conservation? And which departments are mainly responsible for relations with other countries on conservation? Would both be Environment Canada, or are different departments responsible for each?

4:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Very briefly, in order to capture the bulk of the federal-provincial relations on conservation, Environment Canada is a key player, but one would have to include the Department of Fisheries and Oceans because there are so many issues in the aquatic environment. As well, I would say the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources. That cluster would cover it. We exercise, obviously, some significant—

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Agriculture—okay.

4:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Agriculture, because if you think about it, there is so much land in this country that's under cultivation, and the environmental best management practice is a key determinant of the overall protection of nature in the country.

I think if you went internationally, it would just be the same story again. You have a lot of areas where Environment Canada would lead a delegation but where the expertise would be in another department; sometimes it's our department, and sometimes it would be in another department. So we try to work as closely as we can with our federal partners and keep the home team organized in order to move ahead together on these things.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs would never be involved with something like that.

4:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

The Department of Foreign Affairs would be involved with something like that, and in fact in a legal sense is always the head of the delegation, if you will. We often receive our instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and we work closely with them, but the expertise on any international conservation agreement would likely rest somewhere between EC, DFO, and NRCan, and possibly AANDC as well, because many of these issues have an important aboriginal peoples dimension.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thank you very much.

Can you list the international conservation agreements to which Canada is a signatory?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Yes. It's a pretty long list.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Okay, then perhaps table it.

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

We could come back and table it. There's a fairly long list and there are a number of categories. But we'd be happy to provide that.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Is it possible, in that list, to also table the measurable objectives under those agreements?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

It is. And at risk of sounding as though I'm actually trying to push here, like a travelling Fuller Brush salesman, the federal sustainable development strategy was our attempt to really pull together all of that in a government-wide context. I would recommend section 3 of the federal sustainable development strategy as a key starting point to see all of the Government of Canada's domestic and international commitments with respect to protecting nature.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

How much time do I have, Mr. Chair?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

You have a little over a minute.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Can you let us know what the government's main land conservation commitments are and what the deadlines are under those commitments?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

I can. I don't have them off the top of my head.

Do you, Bob?

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Habitat and Ecosystem Conservation, Department of the Environment

Robert McLean

The target that was identified at the most recent conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity was 17% for terrestrial areas and 10% for marine areas. In terms of Canada's progress, we are at about 10% for the terrestrial areas and about 1% for marine-protected areas.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Madam Leslie, unfortunately your time has expired.

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Mr. Chair, could I add a quick clarification?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Yes, perhaps you can just finish up on that.

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Those targets were global aspirational targets. It's an area where it is not necessarily an absolute, hard commitment taken on by the Government of Canada, but as a signatory to the convention it's one we, among all other governments, try to strive toward.

I should mention one more point, with the indulgence of the chair. In the context of the national conservation plan, there is an interesting discussion about goals and targets: What should we establish as our goal for the national conservation plan in areas like this to motivate partnership and collaborative action?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Very good. Thank you.

Mr. Sopuck.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

This is just a comment, Mr. Keenan, about your comments regarding the boreal forest industry. You made it sound as though we have $50 billion worth of commercial activity and $90 billion worth of other activity. You made it sound as though they're mutually exclusive. I hope you didn't mean that, because a well-managed, harvested boreal forest can also deliver those other non-monetary benefits that you discussed.

I don't need your answer on this, but I make that comment. The concept of working landscapes delivering environmental benefits is very important.

In that vein, in your two documents, which I'm reacting to, the lack of priority on working landscapes and the conservation activities of private landowners and agriculturalists bother me. Don't you think it is on the working landscapes where the greatest conservation gains can be made?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Michael Keenan

Thank you.

I know you didn't ask for an answer on the first part of your question, but I'd just like to say—

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

My time is very tight, so I'd appreciate succinctness.