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Evidence of meeting #26 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 environment.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Carol Najm  Assistant Deputy Minister, Finance Branch, Department of the Environment
Yves Leboeuf  Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Karen Dodds  Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment
Paul Boothe  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

5:05 p.m.

Dr. Karen Dodds Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Thank you very much.

Yes, as the minister said, we continue to have the separate site at Eureka, a separate building looking at ozone and water and air quality. We have a number of other air quality sites across the north, about eight, and more than 40 sites for monitoring water. We have in the area of ten or more sites, I believe, where we do research and monitoring with regard to wildlife and habitat.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good. Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Unfortunately, your time has expired.

We'll move now to Ms. Murray, for six minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciate your coming here to help us understand the plans for the Ministry of the Environment.

I understand that in the plans there is an intention to spend money to enhance “Canada’s visibility as an international leader in clean energy technology”. I'm interested to know what that means: how much money we're talking about; how it will be spent; whether it includes funding to promote oil sands products; and whether that money is to be spent here, in Canada, or spent elsewhere, outside of Canada.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Let me start by saying that the international community does require assistance in being informed and enlightened with regard to Canada's resource practices and principles and, with regard to the oil sands, the responsibly regulated measures that this government takes with regard to exploiting a legitimate Canadian natural resource.

Certainly at every opportunity ministers of the government abroad work to deliver that message, that in fact there has been a misrepresentation—in many cases an exaggeration, and in certain cases deliberate falsehoods—with regard to the characterization of the exploitation of the resource industries.

With regard to specific dollar amounts, I think Deputy Boothe has them at hand.

5:10 p.m.

Paul Boothe Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Sure.

Thanks for the question. I think what you're referring to is the clean energy dialogue. The clean energy dialogue represents about $1.8 million of a two-year allocation of $5.4 million for renewed international climate change strategies.

In each year, Environment Canada will receive about $900,000 for the clean energy dialogue. About $448,000 of that will go to the science and technology group. They are co-chairs of the research and development working group, along with the U.S., and will contribute to projects undertaken by that group. An example of that would be research to improve productivity in harvesting methods in the use of algal biomass. The next generation of biofuels is one of those projects.

In addition to that, the international branch will receive about $450,000 a year to fund our role as the secretariat for the clean energy dialogue. We're not the only department involved in this; NRCan is also involved in this.

Just to give you a sense of what work has been done to date.... Sorry.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you.

I'm looking at $90 million here, and I'm told that about $2 million would be about Canada's international leadership in clean energy technology. I think the minister's response does imply that this is about selling the oil sands products. I'm wondering whether it also includes, in talking about “a platform to deepen engagement with the United States on climate change issues”.... Is the government planning to continue lobbying to weaken the standards that are being considered in the United States, and that might disadvantage Canada, in the absence of any actual greenhouse gas reduction programs of our own, here in our country?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

No, absolutely not. We work with the United States on a number of levels. As you know, both of our countries, as signatories to Copenhagen, made commitments to reduce GHGs by 2020.

Because of our integrated economies, we have a very integrated plan. In transportation, which is an integrated manufacturing industrial sector, it made sense not to wrong-foot Canadian auto manufacturers, so we aligned our new regulations for emissions in cars, trucks, and heavy vehicles. With regard to coal-fired electricity, we're blessed with much more hydro power than the United States. Their sector is ten times bigger. They're using a different set of regulations, but we're both working to hit those same targets.

With regard to the major economies group, of which Canada and the United States are continuing members, we work to encourage our fellow parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to move ahead from the Kyoto era and work together to encourage more countries, the United States being a major—

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you, Mr. Minister.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Unfortunately, time has expired.

Next we have Ms. Liu. You have five minutes.

March 13th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Thanks a lot.

I'd like to welcome the minister to committee. It's the first time he has appeared before us, and I really appreciate that he has taken the time to meet with us.

I have a lot of questions, so I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your answers short. I realize you only have an hour to meet with us and there's a lot to get through.

I'd like to pick up on my colleague's concerns about funding allocated to the clean air agenda. We know there's an increase of $90.3 million to this funding, and as my colleague mentioned, this funding will allow us to develop a “platform to deepen engagement with the United States on climate change issues and enhancing Canada's visibility as an international leader in clean energy technology”.

It does sound as if this funding is being allocated to PR, and that's a concern that has been expressed by civil society as well.

At a time when we're cutting ozone research, laying off scientists at Environment Canada, and we're gutting funding to CEAA by 43%, can the minister explain to the committee why this is a wise allocation of funding?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

I think our earlier remarks clarified that we're not cutting funding to CEAA. Those were sunsetted funds. We are not reducing our commitment to ozone monitoring, or to science.

But as you know, in budget 2011 we are renewing funding for the clean air regulatory agenda, CARA, in the amount of $600 million. This was a previously sunsetted program. It was a worthy program. It's an effective program that we pursue both in Canada and also with our international partners.

We will continue to work with regard to greenhouse gas commitments, but also, a month ago we started a parallel commitment to work on short-lived climate forcers with the United States, Mexico, Sweden, Ghana, Bangladesh, and the United Nations Environment Programme. These short-lived forcers, if we could contain and control them, reduce or eliminate them, would contribute 30% to annual global warming--

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Thanks. I'd like to move on to my next question, if that's okay. My time is running out.

We've been talking about Eureka and PEARL, and we know they're two completely different things—two different locations, two different kinds of research.

My colleague did bring up the issue of PEARL. We do know that in the last budget the Minister of Finance announced $35 million over five years for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, to support excellence in climate atmospheric research in Canadian post-secondary education. These funds were delivered under the economic action plan.

The government did allow the funding to expire and the scientific research it supported to be lost. The $35 million that was announced was supposed to replace that, but we haven't really seen that yet.

Can the minister clarify for committee where this climate change funding has gone?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

It is $35 million. It will be dispersed by NSERC, which is an arm's-length agency. Neither I nor the department determine how they make those awards. It's a five-year program, and that funding will be at the disposal of NSERC for the next five years.

As I said, there is a great deal of competition with various research projects proposed every year for natural science work. But again, in this particular area, with that $35 million over five years, this will be at the discretion of NSERC.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

My colleague also raised a lot of concerns about the PEARL. We know that the lab will be shutting its doors in a few days. This also means that investments previously made in PEARL—and these are investments paid for by Canadian taxpayers—are investments that are being lost as a result of this closure.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Unfortunately, your time has expired. Thank you.

Mr. Sopuck.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thanks.

My colleague Mr. Woodworth talked about the $100-million increase requested by Environment Canada. One would hope that the opposition would support that.

I would like to focus, Minister, on the non-regulatory side of your department, which I don't think is talked about enough, given the successes that have occurred in the past and I hope will continue in the future. I'm talking about the stewardship programs Environment Canada is involved with. These programs typically involve close partnerships with NGOs, landowners, and people involved in agriculture, like many of my constituents. Actually, my constituents avail themselves of these programs as well as others that have an important role to play in managing landscapes.

Beyond protected areas, what stewardship measures and programs has the government implemented?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Stewardship, along with more formally protected areas like the national parks and the national marine conservation areas, is an important part of this government's environment policy. It isn't always feasible in all habitats across Canada. Complementary efforts are critical to ensuring protection of the ecology and the environment in different situations. I think the best way to characterize stewardship programs is that they typically involve close partnerships with NGOs, non-governmental agencies, landowners, and others who have an important role in managing landscapes. The North American waterfowl management plan would be one, and the habitat stewardship program would be another important player.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Interestingly, the North American waterfowl management plan, which our government is a part of, can be considered the largest landscape conservation program in history, involving three countries. One group I would like to put kudos to is the waterfowl hunting community, which has been working away on this file for decades. I don't think the waterfowl hunters of Canada and North America get nearly enough credit for the work they do. That's why, during the last election campaign, I was so delighted that our government committed to a national hunting and wildlife advisory council. I think the hunting community will take its place in the sun as the strongest and best conservationists this country has ever had.

One program in particular I would like to ask about is Wildlife Habitat Canada, which is solely funded by waterfowl hunting licence fees. I trust this program will continue.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Absolutely, yes.

Just to back up a little bit, I'd just like to thank you for your contribution to the creation of the national conservation plan. Landowners, hunters, and fisherfolk contribute significantly to the stewardship of the environment and to sustainable practices.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I agree: there's nothing like a person whose livelihood depends upon the environment to have them care about the environment.

You mentioned the national conservation plan, which was an election commitment of our government. Can you elaborate on where you might see this going?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

We have held initial consultations with a broad range of stakeholders. We will continue to engage groups across the country. With their engagement, advice, and support we will develop a conservation plan that will come before this committee, in the fullness of time, to be examined and worked on.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

We're very much looking forward to it. I will be recommending a strong focus on working landscapes in particular. As you know, Minister, my particular concern is the prairie wetlands and the important role they play. I'm looking forward to the development of that.

Do I have any more time, Mr. Chairman?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

You have 30 seconds.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay, now I'm on the spot.

One thing that has been recommended to me in terms of helping to fund the waterfowl program is Wildlife Habitat Canada. I will throw out as a recommendation that we may want to look at increasing the waterfowl habitat stamp hunters have to buy, specifically non-resident hunters. We could probably generate an extra $1 million for conservation if something like that were implemented. I would be eager to help you with that particular initiative.