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Evidence of meeting #31 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 nature.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Kendall  Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers
Len Ugarenko  President, Wildlife Habitat Canada
Sophie Gallais  Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec
Mark Northwood  President and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Earth Rangers

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

We are still on this point of order.

Monsieur Choquette.

April 26th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is important to know that marine waters conservation currently represents only 1% in Canada and that it concerns fish habitat. However, if my memory serves me, the Aichi target for 2020 is 10%. We have asked the question to determine how we could adopt the most efficient and effective national conservation plan possible for protecting marine waters and habitat. I asked a question on ecosystems last week. If we only protect a few fish at a time, we overlook the fact that we are dealing with an ecosystem. We can't just protect the fish that are caught in the commercial fishery because the rest of the fish are food for other fish and so on. It's a whole ecosystem.

So I suggest that Ms. Liu simply restate her question as to whether, in the context of a national conservation plan, an ecosystem approach would be preferable to an approach based on groups of species or groups of commercial fish and so on.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Ms. Liu.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

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

I appreciate my colleague's point of order, although I was specifically referring to targets six and seven of Madame Gallais' testimony. Target six reads:

By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.

Target seven reads:

By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.

I might rephrase my question to maybe refer to these two targets more specifically, but the question does remain.

I think it's legitimate for committee to have an oversight role in terms of the legislation that the government does put on the floor and so I think it is legitimate to ask a witness about legislation that government is presenting or the legislative goals that the current government has. But I'll defer to your ruling on that, Mr. Chair.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Ms. Rempel.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

While I'm glad for my colleague to remind us in committee of what our role as legislators is in reviewing legislation, which is what we have been doing in government actively over the last couple of months, I would also remind her and implore you to again review the scope of today's study in directing lines of questioning towards witnesses.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

I think we've had adequate discussion regarding this point.

For the benefit of the witnesses and my colleagues in the committee, this is what was provided to the witnesses and will guide the principles of our questioning today:

The scope of the study is as follows, with witnesses and interested parties being asked to comment on or provide briefs, regarding the following potential elements of an NCP:

1) What should be the purpose of a NCP?

2) What should be the goals of a NCP?

3) What guiding principles should govern a NCP?

4) What conservation priorities should be included in a NCP?

5) What should be the implementation priorities of a NCP?

6) What consultation process should the Minister consider using when developing a NCP?

With those being the guiding principles of the meeting today, I would encourage the questioning to be such and would remind each member to make sure their questioning of the witnesses is in that scope.

Carry on, Ms. Liu.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

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

May I just ask, Mr. Chair, how much time I have left?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

The clock was stopped. You have another minute and a half.

Please proceed.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

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

My next question is also for Ms. Gallais.

I would like to know how you view the cooperation between the federal government and the provinces, your take on the partnership between the two jurisdictions.

4:35 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

The two orders of government have their own jurisdictions. In certain cases, and to address conservation targets, procedures must clearly be implemented jointly, to create protected marine areas, for example. The federal government has an important role to play. It is important that there be intergovernmental structures for achieving conservation targets together. The interests of Canada are at stake.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

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

What lessons can we learn from conservation in northern Quebec? Could any aspects there apply to a national conservation plan?

4:35 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

Quebec and conservation commitments are a current issue. There are some promising initiatives, such as the idea of implementing an ecological plan in the area north of the 49th parallel in Quebec. In fact, those initiatives are being taken elsewhere in Canada. So it can be done in other communities. The idea is simply to determine the various land uses based on energy, forest, conservation and recreational tourism potential. By doing this kind of planning, we can facilitate more sustainable land use taking stakeholders' interests into account.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

The time has expired. Thank you.

Mr. Sopuck, you have five minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

Mr. Ugarenko, I think it's very important to emphasize, as you noted in your presentation, that Wildlife Habitat Canada is almost solely funded by hunters' dollars and has been from day one. I've always been impressed by the scope of the projects your organization has undertaken. Can you very briefly discuss the tradition of the hunting community in paying for conservation, and do you see a willingness there for them to pay even more if they can be assured of direct conservation results?

4:35 p.m.

President, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Len Ugarenko

The hunting and angling community has been the major funder of wildlife conservation in North America since the beginning. Many of the conservation organizations you see today were founded by anglers and hunters, and they continue to participate. They provide money through their licence fees, but almost all of them also provide an untold amount of time and money as volunteers, working on conservation projects.

They would fall into the whole idea of helping establish the conservation priorities for the plan, and they would also fall into the implementation part of the plan. You have a huge resource with them, and they would be willing to do that—I've talked to them as a hunter and angler myself—because as I said earlier, one potential way of funding this is what we call the “duck stamp” in Canada. The price has been the same since 1991. It has been over 20 years, and from speaking to the hunters, I know that paying a little more is something that they're willing to do, because they are truly attached to the resource and truly love it.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

As an avid hunter and angler myself, I couldn't agree more.

I was very intrigued by your description of the Long Point waterfowl program that you undertake and the wide suite of activities that the kids undergo. I'm especially intrigued by the fact that you do take them out hunting and fishing. Again, too often those two activities are neglected. It's almost a biological desire in many of us to undertake those activities. Again, you take them out, I'm sure, for bird watching and teach them the importance of wetlands and all that other stuff as well.

Do you think there's a biological basis for the love of nature in kids, and that all we need to do is bring it out?

4:35 p.m.

President, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Len Ugarenko

Yes. I may be wrong, but I'm saying that we're all part of nature, that it's inside us. We've lost the way of looking at that and connecting with it.

I've taken kids who have never hunted before—my own two daughters, for example, years ago—out onto the prairies of Alberta and into the foothills. My daughters would come back and say every year, “Dad, I want to do it again”. All they were doing was walking.

I used Long Point as one example. Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and some of the provincial angling and hunting groups also have programs to get kids outdoors. The encouraging thing to me is that these programs are starting to expand.

Wildlife Habitat Canada runs an annual art competition for the habitat stamp. We started one for a youth habitat stamp. We're hoping that we can build a pool of money that will be separate from government funding and have more discretion in funding school buses for inner-city kids and that kind of thing.

We've been doing this for three years. All three of the youth who won have actually said that it was a life-changing experience, because they have to produce a painting based on their observation or experience with nature. They are leaders today. They're 14 years old and they're talking to their friends about the importance of nature.

So yes, I think it's something that's part of us. I think it's something that has been buried because we live a hugely urban existence, and we've lost touch with it. The trick is to bring it out, nurture it, and connect it. How many people think about where the water is coming from and where the water is going when you turn on the tap? Not many, I'm sure.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Agreed.

Ms. Gallais, I'd like to ask you for your definition of biodiversity.

I'll tell you why I'd like to explore that one further. If we're to develop public policy in terms of biodiversity conservation, we have to know what it is.

Are you talking about preserving the suite of species that exists today, many of which are non-native species? Are you talking about preserving the suite of native species only, keeping in mind that some of the non-native species that have become established in Canada are actually very beneficial? Could you just explore what specific definition of biodiversity is actually in your mind?

4:40 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

As I explained earlier, biodiversity simultaneously means diversity of species and populations as well as genetic and ecosystem diversity. To answer your question more specifically, some species may definitely be harmful, particularly invasive exotic species. To maintain the natural heritage, the goal is not to conserve the biodiversity of those species but, on the contrary, the biodiversity that is already in place, the indigenous diversity of our country.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Your time has expired.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Next, Madam Quach, you have cinq minutes.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses who have come to talk to us about conservation. I'm going to ask Ms. Gallais two questions.

You addressed the question of assessing the cumulative effects of activities on natural resources and the development of those resources, the effects on receiving environments, waterways and the land environment. I would like you to say more about that. What is the benefit in having all those assessments? Do you already have information on what the federal government could do to improve the national conservation plan?

4:40 p.m.

Project Manager, Protected Areas, Nature Québec

Sophie Gallais

I want to clarify one point concerning environmental assessments and cumulative effects. Studying a project on a case-by-case basis of course makes it possible to reduce the impact on the site itself, but the overall vision, that is to say of a number of various projects, is significant in terms of the effects on a watershed, for example. The study of cumulative effects is an important issue, particularly in natural resource development. There is room for the development of natural resources, which we all need, but it must be done intelligently, considering the capacity of our environments to support it. There are various ways of doing it. When, for example, there is a major economic boom in a given area, that's where the importance of a strategic environmental assessment for the purpose of studying cumulative effects becomes clear.