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Evidence of meeting #38 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 need.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jeffrey Hutchings  President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual
Martin Willison  Adjunct Professor, School for Resource and Environmental Studies and Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, As an Individual
Todd Dupuis  Executive Director, Regional Programs, Atlantic Salmon Federation
Frederick Whoriskey  Vice-Chair, Education, Dalhousie University, Huntsman Marine Science Centre
David Coon  Executive Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick Inc.
Steve Burgess  Acting Director General, Ecosystem Programs Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Ward Samson  Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation
Soren Bondrup-Nielsen  Treasurer, Head, Department of Biology, Acadia University, Science and Management of Protected Areas Association
Margo Sheppard  Chair, Canadian Land Trust Alliance
Betty Ann Lavallée  National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
Susanna Fuller  Coordinator, Marine Conservation, Ecology Action Centre
Andrew Hammermeister  Assistant Professor, Nova Scotia Agricultural College; Director, Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada
Dwight Dorey  National Vice-Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

9:45 a.m.

President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings

I think strengthening current environmental laws is fundamentally important to the success of any conservation plan, which one would naturally wish to have. Another element is the degree to which new legislation might be considered. Australia in 1999 established the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. It's an extremely sophisticated piece of legislation that identifies national objectives that must be met. It has a legislative platform upon which a national conservation plan could be based. Norway in 2009 passed a Nature Diversity Act providing for the management of biological, geological, and landscape diversity. I think there's a place in Canada for national legislation that articulates the vision of Canadians through the establishment of something like a national conservation plan.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Dupuis, you mentioned focusing on native species as opposed to non-native or invasive species. Yesterday, as part of our site visit, we met with Peter Darnell, a mussel farmer from Indian Point Marine Farms, and he explained to us how the propagation of invasive species has been encouraged by changes in climate, by warmer weather.

Do you think that a national conservation strategy should take climate change adaptation and mitigation into account?

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Regional Programs, Atlantic Salmon Federation

Todd Dupuis

Yes. I understand there has been some movement of species around the planet because of climate changes. I think a national conservation plan should focus somewhat on trying to reduce or slow down the actual climate change that is happening now. Also, I know a lot of these species are being moved around not on purpose. But we are still moving around species that are not native, and we are doing that on purpose, to the detriment of some of the natural species that are in trouble, including Atlantic salmon, for example, which is listed as endangered in some regions of Canada and threatened in others. Nonetheless, we are still introducing species that we know are impacting these species.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

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

What are some of the main threats to wild salmon ecosystems?

9:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Regional Programs, Atlantic Salmon Federation

Todd Dupuis

Wild Atlantic salmon of course spend part of their life in salt water and they are certainly a true migratory fish. They spend part of their early life cycle in fresh water. Anything that impacts the watersheds, the freshwater component of their life cycle, or that impacts the oceans is impacting the Atlantic salmon. The list is long. When it comes to fresh water the issues are mostly land use and the inputs from sedimentation from farming or chemical inputs from farming or fish passage issues through the culverts or dams. When it comes to the ocean we're not quite as clear on what's going on. We know that the ocean survival of Atlantic salmon and that component of the life cycle has been reduced over the last couple of decades.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

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

I'm going to interrupt you, because I don't have very much time left andI wanted to fit in one last question for Mr. Hutchings.

Do you think that a national conservation strategy should emphasize a focus on conservation habitat or on specific fish species?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Your time is very short. If you could keep your answers short I would appreciate it, please.

9:50 a.m.

President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would say the primary focus should be one of habitat. The species are secondary. If one protects habitat for one species you are almost certainly going to be protected for multiple species.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Thank you.

Next is Mr. Woodworth. You have seven minutes.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses today. It really is regrettable that we have such short time periods within which to have these conversations, but I'm going to take some of my time to do something a little dangerous, just because I'm so impressed.

Dr. Willison, I'm going to begin by giving you a fair amount of laudatory comment and praise. It's dangerous for both of us, for me because I don't know you well enough to know for sure if I really understand what you're saying. If I'm wrong, I'll have egg on my face. It's dangerous for you, because I have no expertise whatsoever, so any praise I give you doesn't mean too much.

I want to say how impressed I was with your presentation, not only for the manner in which you presented it, but for the content. You would have every reason, perhaps, to take a partisan approach, but I see absolutely no partisanship in this whatsoever. I don't see any of the passive-aggressive government-bashing we often see. Instead, what I see is a good analysis and a practical solution. That's what I want to talk about, because I would identify with almost everything you say—with one or two minor exceptions. If I could, this would be the kind of recommendation I might make to the minister.

Before I pursue that, I should just say for the benefit of all the panellists that we want to be sure that you understand the scope of our job today. It's really in the end only to make recommendations to the minister about how he might proceed to develop a national conservation plan. We are not, ourselves, here to develop a national conservation plan, but we want to give the minister some grist for the mill, as it were, and to give him some direction.

One of the two things I want to ask you about, Dr. Willison, is the wiki idea. I knew you were a man after my own heart when you pointed out that even ordinary science is subject to error. I agree with you 100%. I think the wiki idea could be very helpful, but what sort of a secretariat or management scheme would you have, to make certain the input was as accurate as possible?

9:50 a.m.

Adjunct Professor, School for Resource and Environmental Studies and Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Martin Willison

Yes, it would definitely need, as you put it, a secretariat. It wouldn't have to be a very large one. We would need technical experts who were able to manage the software component of it. We would also need what I would call a police person or a policeman who would be empowered to be able to kick off people who were disruptive, and that's quite possible to do.

Wikipedia, itself, has in the background committees of people who work together in order to clean things up. It also has a system of warnings that appear on pages that are clearly misleading.

So, indeed, you're quite right, and that's why I budgeted it actually at $500,000. That's mostly for people who are there monitoring what's going on and ensuring that the right kinds of people are having input and the wrong kinds of things are disappearing from it.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

To tell you the truth, if I could stop you there, that's one of the minor disagreements I might have with you. I think you're optimistic about the cost. But even if it were two or three times that cost, I'd be prepared to live with it.

9:50 a.m.

Adjunct Professor, School for Resource and Environmental Studies and Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Martin Willison

My wife always tells me that I have to double everything whenever I estimate costs.

I brought these along for a specific purpose. I have three copies here. Unfortunately, I don't have enough to be able to give one to everybody.

These two books here were produced at no cost. We held a conference, we asked people to come to the conference, they paid registration fees for the conference, and part of the money was to give them a book at the end of the conference about what they talked about. So here are two conferences, two books, no cost.

The thing is that you can do things at very low costs when people care.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

I agree.

9:55 a.m.

Adjunct Professor, School for Resource and Environmental Studies and Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University, As an Individual

Dr. Martin Willison

Conservation is something people care about, and that's why they'll put the effort in.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

That's absolutely true.

The thing that strikes me about the concept you're proposing—we've heard this from other witnesses, and I think Dr. Hutchings touched on it as well—is that we lack a knowledge base. Indeed, my view is that we have a national conservation plan already. You sort of alluded to it, Dr. Willison. But it's fragmented and it's across the country, and a single cohesive location would be of great assistance.

I did want to ask you, Dr. Hutchings, what did you think of that particular plan for a way of using modern technology to try to integrate what's going on across the country in the manner that Dr. Willison has proposed?

9:55 a.m.

President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings

I think it holds great promise. Key to an effort like that is the formative structure. What are the key objectives? Precisely how would the contributions of people be used?

[Technical difficulty—Editor]

It would be an excellent way to engage the average citizen, the citizen who wishes to contribute. And it could engage industry and businesses as well.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Dr. Hutchings, I see us with a knowledge gap—I think everybody identified that. Without filling that knowledge gap, I don't see how we can properly set anything but very short-term objectives. For example, I've heard people say we should protect 50% of Canada's land mass. But there doesn't seem to be any knowledge base from which to determine what we need to protect.

Do you agree that we need the data before we can properly come up with intelligent objectives, priorities?

9:55 a.m.

President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings

I very much do agree. I think targets like that are important for their aspirational elements. It does give someone something to shoot for. But by the same token, those targets also need to be empirically based. There needs to be a sound information basis for identifying particular targets. If they are deemed to be arbitrary, then that is how they will be treated.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Exactly.

Do I have any more time?

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

You have twenty seconds.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Well, I just lost ten of my twenty seconds. I'll stop there and hopefully get a chance later.

Sorry, gentlemen.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Thank you, Mr. Woodworth.

Mr. Eyking, you have seven minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for coming today.

First, I guess if anybody's denying climate change, yesterday's tour would have been a good one to go on to see, as alluded to by the NDP, how the invasive species are coming into the mussel farms. There are ducks in there year round. They're after the mussels. We see what's happening with the acidic rivers, with the salmon.

I'm from Cape Breton, and today it was announced that Aspy River and Margaree are going to be closed for a while yet, so there's no doubt it's there. I'll ask a question later about climate change.

Another thing that's happening in Ottawa, right now we have a lot of legislation going through Parliament. One is deregulation of the small fisheries DFO is doing for small fish habitat. The other is changes are happening in Parks Canada, and I'll call it a green plan.

Whether it's cuts to Parks Canada or for the fisheries, not only the changes that are going to be made, but what changes should be made to backfill those changes, or as you go forward if there's a new green plan or some way that the environment's going to have to factor in?

On climate change, what more should we be doing internationally that we're not doing? We had suggestions yesterday about where we should be liming some of the rivers locally and doing various things.

There are two questions there. One is legislation that's currently in Parliament, your concerns over it, and what future legislation we should be working on for conservation. The second one is what we should be doing internationally on the global front on climate change.

I only have seven minutes. I only have one round, so if you can do it in a minute each it would be fine with me.

10 a.m.

President, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution; Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University; As an Individual

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings

I'll begin. Thank you for the questions. It's a two-part question with respect to current legislative changes.

I do envisage a weakening of environmentally based legislation. Thus, from a national conservation plan side of things, I would be concerned in terms of the degree to which, whatever objectives and aspirational qualities are part of such a plan, it might reduce our ability for it to have the accountability element—and indeed, the enforceability element—associated with a national conservation plan.

With respect to climate change, from an oceanic perspective Canada has the longest coastline in the world. We probably have the largest seas in the world—estimated at about 7.1 million square kilometres—so we do indeed have this international real estate stewardship issue. I think it would be extremely important, nationally and internationally, for Canada to take leadership on climate change issues.

One of the key ways in which that fits into a national conservation plan is in one of the priorities I suggested, and that is to make a commitment to rebuild depleted populations, species, and degraded ecosystems. That is probably the only thing we will be able to do as a people and as a country in order to combat or allow ecosystems to respond and adapt to climate change, to have healthy ecosystems. It is not just good from a biodiversity perspective, but it's good from a social and economic perspective as well.