Evidence of meeting #78 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 mining.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Pierre Gratton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada
Jim Burpee  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Electricity Association
Dan Gibson  Senior Environmental Scientist, Hydro Environment Division, Ontario Power Generation Inc., Canadian Electricity Association
Rick Bates  Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation
Mark Hubert  Vice-President, Environmental Leadership, Forest Products Association of Canada
Ben Chalmers  Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Mining Association of Canada
Kate Lindsay  Advisor, Conservation Biology, Forest Products Association of Canada
James Page  Manager, Species at Risk Program, Canadian Wildlife Federation

8:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call the meeting of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to order. This is meeting number 78 continuing our study on habitat conservation.

We're pleased to have with us today, from the Mining Association of Canada, Mr. Pierre Gratton, president and chief executive officer, and Mr. Ben Chalmers, vice-president of sustainable development. From the Canadian Electricity Association we also have Mr. Jim Burpee, president and chief executive officer, and Dan Gibson, senior environment scientist, hydro environment division, at Ontario Power Generation. From the Canadian Wildlife Federation we have Mr. Rick Bates, executive director, and James Page, manager, species at risk program. From the Forest Products Association of Canada we have Mark Hubert, vice-president, environmental leadership, and Kate Lindsay, advisor, conservation biology.

Welcome to our witnesses. I know that some of you also have support staff behind you. We will open with 10-minute statements from each of the groups, and following that each of our committee members will have questions to ask. They will direct the questions to specific witnesses.

W e will begin with the Mining Association of Canada, Mr. Pierre Gratton and Mr. Ben Chalmers. I understand that you'll be splitting your time between you.

Please proceed.

8:45 a.m.

Pierre Gratton President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, clerk, and fellow attendees. As you've just mentioned, I'm Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada. We're the national voice of the mining and mineral processing industry. Ben Chalmers, who is with me, is our vice-president of sustainable development and is responsible for implementing our “towards sustainable mining” initiative. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and share some of our perspectives on habitat conservation in Canada.

For a bit of additional background, I sat on the B.C. species at risk task force a few years ago while president of the Mining Association of B.C. The task force was a multi-stakeholder group that included Peter Robinson, president of the David Suzuki Foundation. Established by former premier Gordon Campbell, the task force reached consensus and submitted both a description and an analysis of the shortcomings of the federal Species at Risk Act as well as a suite of recommendations for the province on how to improve its approach to species at risk protection. I encourage the committee to read the task force's report if you haven't done so, as well as the government's response, which was recently published.

In 2011, the mining industry employed 320,000 workers, paid $9 billion in taxes and royalties to provincial and federal governments, and accounted for 23% of Canada's overall export value. Mining is proportionately the largest private sector employer of aboriginal people and an enabler of many successful aboriginal-owned businesses. Critical to many rural and remote communities, mining also generates prosperity in our major cities, notably Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatoon. Each of which serves as a centre for global mining excellence for various types of mining.

Looking forward, proposed, planned, and in-place mining projects in Canada amount upwards of $140 billion in investment over the next five to 10 years. Across the country, major projects are seen in mined oil sands, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, and diamonds, among other sectors, with large investments also occurring in environmental and processing areas.

To enable the industry to become an even stronger contributor to Canadian prosperity, industry needs an effective, enabling regulatory environment. In the brief we submitted to you, however, we focused not just on what we need government to do but also on what we are doing. We describe in our brief our members' commitment to biodiversity conservation demonstrated through implementation of our towards sustainable mining initiative, or TSM. TSM is a condition of MAC membership and involves public reporting and third-party verification of performance against a suite of performance indicators, including three that address biodiversity conservation. We also highlight for you a few examples of how some of our member companies are putting TSM into practice on the ground.

We focus on TSM because we would like you to understand how mining operates today and the kinds of systems that are in place to address issues such as biodiversity conservation. It is important context to guide government legislative and regulatory action.

When it comes to issues such as habitat conservation or species at risk protection, we believe that regulation that enables collaboration between different stakeholders will be the most effective. It's a different operating environment from, for example, pollution control where the source is clear as is the responsibility. When it comes to decisions involving land use there are multiple players and shared responsibilities. Hence, the regulatory approach should be different. Approaches that are too prescriptive and force land users into silos run a serious risk of failure and potential conflict.

The Fisheries Act, for example, has in the past compelled mine sites to create artificial and expensive on-site fish habitat that contributes little to enhanced fish populations and biodiversity, and may, in fact, work against both. We are cautiously optimistic that a new, more flexible approach to offsets by Fisheries and Oceans will enable more creative solutions to compensate for the, at times, temporary loss of fish habitat caused by new mining projects. Recently, for example, we are aware of Fisheries and Oceans accepting the repair and replacement of blocked and/or damaged culverts near the mine site as part of an offset plan. These actions, simple and cost-effective, will contribute to healthier fish populations overall, even though this activity is outside the mine lease. By allowing such flexibility, the government also enables industry to work more closely with local communities, including first nations, to identify and collaborate on local priorities, which also helps to foster social licence.

We also comment in our brief on the shortcomings, and frankly, the disappointment of the Species At Risk Act. When originally conceived, SARA was intended to foster stewardship and collaboration on the ground. Indeed, the front end of the act outlines the opportunities for concluding conservation agreements to enable industry, aboriginal, and local communities and governments to protect species and enhance their habitats. This is section 11.

Regrettably, the implementation of SARA has failed to capitalize on these aspects, at least to date. It has always been our view that collaboration involving land users, be they private land owners or tenants, will be the most effective approach to protect species and assist in their recovery.

A founding principle of the Species at Risk Working Group, an independent multi-stakeholder coalition of which MAC was a part—and I note we have two other organizations here today that were also part of this group a number of years ago—was that for species at risk protection to succeed, actions must work for species and for people. Conservation efforts should not place an undue burden on land users, as species at risk protection is a public good.

Instead, government resources have been directed almost entirely to the development of recovery plans, identification of critical habitat, and prescriptive critical habitat protection. Furthermore, a failure to meet the act's timelines for recovery plans has led to litigation. There is a concern that the avoidance of litigation is now driving decision-making, detracting from the act's real objective, which is to protect species at risk and support their recovery.

SARA's single-species approach has also precluded a more integrated ecosystem-based approach that would recognize and plan for the fact that species do not exist in isolation. A species-by-species approach, which adds to the financial cost of administering the act, also limits the potential for more landscape-, multi-species-, ecosystem-based approaches that hold the promise of greater effectiveness, lower costs, and lower impacts on land users.

“Single-species approaches can also have perverse outcomes, with society picking “winners” based on visibility or iconic status while ignoring “losers” that could be equally or more functionally important.” I lifted that line from B.C.'s Species At Risk Task Force report, which I thought was a really compelling one.

There is clearly a need for better federal-provincial coordination on species protection and recovery. For many resource sectors, including mining, the provinces are the primary regulator. The provinces are typically better placed to manage land-based decisions, which could be informed and enabled by federal legislative requirements under SARA.

Finally, we are concerned that a narrow focus on critical habitat protection as the only tool for protecting species at risk will needlessly sterilize the land base from responsible economic development, when other options might be available of equal or potentially superior effect. We recognize that at times critical habitat protection or no-go zones may be the only tool available to ensure survival of a species at risk, but blunt instruments such as this should be used sparingly and selectively.

Major projects, such as mines, are subject to full environmental reviews at both federal and provincial levels. Recent reforms to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act have not reduced the application to mining, although there have been meaningful and effective improvements to process and timelines. Today, mining represents some 70% of current federal environmental assessments.

CEAA requires consideration of impacts of a mining project on listed species at risk; thus environmental assessment ensures that mines are developed with knowledge of potential impacts on species and their critical habitats as well as of other environmental considerations. This process also ensures that mines are built with appropriate mitigation and compensation measures, if required. Mines are heavily regulated at the provincial level, with permits required for all aspects, including road construction, water use and release, tailings and waste rock management and disposal, and reclamation. Further, mines built by members of MAC will include implementation of TSM.

In this context, what becomes important is ensuring sufficient legislative and regulatory flexibility to encourage sensible and creative approaches to environmental management. Objectives-based rather than overly prescriptive legal instruments encourage better outcomes and foster collaboration with other stakeholders.

Our industry willingly partners with other groups active on the land base, in particular with aboriginal communities. Collective approaches reach farther and combine the traditional knowledge and scientific expertise of different partners. In our experience, local communities of interest, including habitat conservation groups with an interest in the outcome and with a connection to the land and its resources, can—given time, resources, and an enabling environment—form the strongest and the most effective and enduring partnerships.

The federal government can create conditions that enable and foster positive biodiversity outcomes by pursuing an outcomes-based approach. Rigid, prescriptive legislation and regulations have in the past contributed to perverse outcomes that should be avoided. An outcomes-based approach would support and enhance efforts by the mining industry to positively contribute to biodiversity conservation through initiatives such as TSM, would foster local collaboration and partnerships, and would reduce conflict.

Thank you, we look forward to your questions.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Gratton, you're honouring our time very well. I had understood you wanted to split your time.

8:55 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

No. I said he's the guy who's going to answer all your questions.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Great. I thought I was going to have to illustrate our rigidity by not allowing your partner to give his five minutes. Thank you for letting me off the hook for that.

My colleagues are not very good at measuring how to split their time when they want to split a 10-minute question. Usually they give the other person about a minute, so I was expecting that.

With all that behind us, let's move to the Canadian Electricity Association, Mr. Jim Burpee.

8:55 a.m.

Jim Burpee President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Electricity Association

Thank you, Mr. Chair. For clarity we will be splitting our time and we have allocated our 10 minutes.

Thank you, committee members, for inviting us here today to discuss habitat conservation and the many ways in which Canada's electricity sector is a leader in this area. Canadian Electricity Association members generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional customers on a daily basis. We represent all aspects of the electricity system, or grid, which is the largest and most complex interconnected machine in North America.

As you can imagine, operating such a massive system means that our service territory is pretty large, likely larger than any other industry you've heard from today. As such, our members have extensive experience and expertise operating within all types of geography and habitat across the country.

For CEA members, species and habitat conservation goes beyond individual initiatives being undertaken by a utility in a specific part of the country. Rather, it is an industry-wide culture of stewardship, of which we are very proud. This stewardship culture is a key part of our commitment to a holistic approach to managing impacts that include environmental, societal, and economic considerations. CEA's sustainable electricity program is the embodiment of this approach. It is a mandatory, sector-wide sustainability initiative that measures and rewards performance.

In 2012, Ontario Power Generation earned the highest honour available under the program—sustainability company of the year—for their exemplary commitment to minimizing their environmental footprint through innovative environmental initiatives and partnerships, including innovative solutions to wildlife and habitat restoration and biodiversity.

l'm pleased to be joined today by Dan Gibson, senior environmental scientist in Ontario Power Generation's hydro environment division, who is here to tell you about some of the excellent conservation work being undertaken by OPG. Following his remarks, I will outline some specific policy recommendations put forward by the industry as a whole, related to the national conservation plan.

9 a.m.

Dan Gibson Senior Environmental Scientist, Hydro Environment Division, Ontario Power Generation Inc., Canadian Electricity Association

Thank you, Jim.

My name is Dan Gibson. I'm a senior environmental scientist with the hydro environment division of Ontario Power Generation.

As Jim alluded to, OPG's biodiversity programs demonstrate that industry has a clear role to play in conserving and restoring Canadian natural landscapes and ecosystems. OPG has invested in significant habitat conservation and restoration efforts in the communities where we operate, through our working landscapes, and in strategic locations across southern Ontario, which include some of the most biologically imperilled regions of Canada. I'll start by outlining for you some of our regional or off-site conservation work.

OPG's corporate environmental policy states that we will work with community partners “to support regional ecosystems and biodiversity through science-based habitat stewardship”. Our tree-planting initiative is a great example of this policy in action. Since 2000, OPG, through our conservation partners, has planted over five million native trees and shrubs on over 2,500 hectares of land. These plantings target the expansion of core forest habitat and regional landscape connectivity to promote the recovery of wildlife at risk as a result of habitat fragmentation.

Site identification is done collaboratively using regional-scale natural heritage systems, such as the Carolinian Canada Coalition's Big Picture, and is often supported by local refinement on the ground. However, the cumulative benefits of these programs extend well beyond conserving and restoring habitat for at-risk wildlife. They also serve to support climate change initiatives through natural sequestration of carbon dioxide and to strengthen the resiliency of woodland ecosystems to withstand the effects of climate change.

Another off-site initiative that we are very proud of is our sponsorship of Earth Rangers projects to bring back the wild American badger and the spotted turtle. These species are listed as endangered, both provincially and federally. The goal of the partnership among OPG, the Earth Rangers, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada is to not only restore and improve habitat, but to also conduct research studies to support recovery. Through these partnerships, we also engage the public through youth education programs that teach youth about the importance of biodiversity and protecting species and their habitats.

A third off-site initiative is our bring back the salmon campaign, a program designed to reintroduce and restore the extirpated Atlantic salmon into Lake Ontario by 2020. OPG is the lead corporate partner in this program that also includes the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and many other partner organizations. The program has four primary components, all of which rely heavily on community involvement, volunteers, and corporate partners for its success.

The first, obviously, is fish production and stocking. The second is water quality and habitat enhancement, which includes our riparian tree- and shrub-planting programs. The third, which is a really fun one, is outreach and education for school kids and includes classroom rearing of juvenile Atlantic salmon. The fourth is research and monitoring.

These initiatives are examples of the on-the-ground conservation work that we are doing with partners, with our stakeholders, to conserve and restore habitat.

Now I'll turn to some of our on-site efforts and some of the programs that are ongoing on our locations. Our work with the Wildlife Habitat Council is a great example of these.

The Wildlife Habitat Council certification is an internationally recognized biodiversity standard that guides our ongoing commitment to biodiversity on our working landscapes. OPG has more than a dozen wildlife at work sites, and numerous corporate lands for learning sites, which I'll talk about in a moment. They're all certified under the Wildlife Habitat Council.

The wildlife at work program seeks to foster corporate-driven cooperative efforts among management, employees, and community members to create, conserve, and restore wildlife habitats on corporate lands. These working landscapes provide excellent opportunities for conservation, protection, restoration, and community engagement, while maintaining some economic benefits. OPG believes that the community engagement aspect of these efforts provides the greatest opportunity for building healthy, resilient ecosystems, which allow Ontarians to enjoy our natural spaces. We believe that our approaches are consistent with some of the proposals we're hearing about with regard to a national conservation plan.

Secondly, the corporate lands for learning certified sites also offer experiential, place-based learning opportunities that use habitat conservation as a tool for teaching Ontarians to explore ecological concepts and the human role in conservation.

In addition to certifications, I'll end with highlighting two additional awards that OPG has received in the last few years.

First, in 2012 OPG once again received recognition from the Wildlife Habitat Council when our Pickering nuclear generating station became the first Canadian organization to be recognized with the Pollinator Advocate Award. This award was in recognition of our efforts to improve habitat for pollinating insects on OPG lands and other community locations.

Second, also in 2012, our Lambton generating station received the Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year Award, which recognizes the station's biodiversity management plan, including work in managing its operations in a way that encourages the existence of native species and ecosystems.

Thank you for your time, and I'll pass it back to Jim.

9:05 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Electricity Association

Jim Burpee

Thanks, Dan.

As you can see, OPG has undertaken numerous initiatives that are achieving real results in conserving species and habitat, not only on site but across the province. This is just one of our members. Similar initiatives are under way across the country by other CEA members. Though I have many other examples of that, because of limited time, I can't share them. But I would be happy to address them during the Q and A, or after the meeting.

What I hope is clear to you is that CEA members are committed to, and actively engaged in, species and habitat conservation activities. I think it's safe to assume that this will be consistent with what most of us envision as the goals or principles of a national conservation plan.

That being said, l'd like to close by addressing some of the specific questions the committee is looking at: first, comparing various conservation and stewardship initiatives already under way with prescriptive government-mandated measures; and second, how the federal government can improve habitat conservation efforts.

For the electricity sector, the Species at Risk Act presents significant challenges, primarily because of the disconnect between industry conservation and stewardship activities and the act's compliance mechanisms. While we fully support the purpose and intent of SARA, and participate as members of the Species at Risk Advisory Committee, the disconnect in the current act hinders our ability to meet our responsibilities to Canadians and at the same time comply with the act. That is to say, many of the positive measures that our members are undertaking, when they relate to a SARA-listed species, are not acknowledged by the act. To date, no electricity facility has been able to obtain compliance under SARA for operations—not one. No permits have been issued, nor have any companies been able to enter into a conservation agreement.

In the most concerning cases, measures taken by a utility to help a species or habitat can actually result in greater legal risk and uncertainty for the utility. An act intended to protect species and habitat should encourage these types of initiatives, not act as a disincentive. In that scenario, neither species at risk nor industry are well served. We believe parts of SARA can be modified to remedy these challenges without compromising the act's effectiveness. We are confident that our proposals in two specific areas—compliance mechanisms, and better consideration of socio-economics in SARA decision-making—will improve federal species protection and lower commercial risks to industry.

As you consider the elements of a national conservation plan and how it could enhance current species and habitat conservation efforts, we encourage you to consider the current challenges with SARA that in our view cannot be ignored. An NCP that is intended to encourage conservation will not be effective if many of the initiatives it seeks to encourage continue to be discouraged, or left legally unclear, by SARA.

If a national conservation plan were tied to SARA in a way that addressed current challenges, we would be very supportive.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Burpee.

We will now move to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, with Mr. Rick Bates.

Welcome, Mr. Bates.

9:05 a.m.

Rick Bates Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Good morning, committee members and guests.

I'm Rick Bates, executive director of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. My colleague, James Page, is our manager of the species at risk program.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is the largest conservation organization in Canada by membership, with more than 300,000 supporters. Our board of directors includes the presidents of the provincial wildlife federations in all 10 provinces and two territories. These provincial federations have an additional 260,000 supporters.

We do three things. We do education to foster our conservation ethic, advocacy to ensure government policy incorporates wildlife interests, and stewardship to research or apply solutions to issues facing wildlife. CWF leads implementation of some of Canada's most important wildlife education programs, including Project Wild, Project Wet, and Below Zero. These programs are approved teacher curricula resource material in every province and territory in Canada.

We are the leading non-government organization in species at risk conservation, having invested approximately $500,000 per year over the past several years on support for species at risk projects.

Some of our current conservation work includes identifying critical habitat for grassland songbirds, developing a status report on aquatic invasive species in Canada, implementing a unique lake-stewardship program across Ontario, and developing a unique land-use model encompassing the western boreal forest that will help improve public discourse on development in an area under intense development pressure, as well as provide strategic guidance on conservation planning in the area. We also provide analysis and input on important policy issues, such as the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

We work at both the species level and at a very broad landscape level. We do high-concept planning and research. We also get our hands dirty in implementation.

We are pleased on behalf of all our supporters to contribute to the committee's study on ways in which a new national conservation plan can strengthen habitat conservation in Canada. We'd like to congratulate the government on the initiative to create a national conservation plan, and the work of this committee in reaching out to others for ideas on how to best strengthen habitat conservation.

We have focused our comments on two of the committee's questions to which we feel we can best contribute. They are: “How can the federal government improve habitat conservation efforts in Canada?” and “When it comes to recovering a species, how do best management practices and stewardship initiatives compare to prescriptive, government-mandated measures?”

We will provide both general guidance as well as specific recommendations in the areas we are commenting on.

First, how can the federal government improve habitat conservation efforts in Canada? Natural resources, of course, are primarily a provincial responsibility. Areas of federal responsibility are migratory birds, fish, species at risk, and oceans. The federal government's national conservation plan should focus on these areas, and in particular, the underserved gaps in these areas.

For example, good-quality fresh water is important for human health, energy production, industrial processing, tourism, agriculture, and many other foundations of our economy, health, and social well-being. Of the total amount of water in the world, surface supplies of fresh water hold less than 0.01%, but the critical freshwater aquatic areas are under severe threat by drainage, pollution, and overuse. In Canada, approximately 147 aquatic species are listed as being at some form of risk. Global warming will continue to strain supplies of fresh water and aquatic ecosystems.

Among freshwater ecosystems in Canada, wetlands have had and continue to receive excellent support through the 25-year commitment from governments and non-government organizations to the North American waterfowl management plan. We support the government's continued support of that program.

The Great Lakes have been the focus of an excellent bilateral effort over 25 years to clean up contaminated sites in the lakes. We also support the government's continued commitment to that program.

The government recently announced a commitment of $10 million over two years for fisheries projects. That help notwithstanding, aquatic areas like streams, rivers, and lakes across Canada are under tremendous stress. They supply most of our fresh water, and we have seen serious declines in salmon and collapses of fisheries in some lakes, yet these areas receive relatively little attention in terms of long-term financial support. There is also a lack of strategic vision, associated planning, and partnerships with non-government organizations for conservation of aquatic habitat.

An important recommendation, therefore, is that we urge this committee to take action to correct that situation by supporting the development of a national plan for fish habitat conservation as a component of the overall national conservation plan.

Habitat programs within a national conservation plan should capture some of the characteristics of our most effective conservation programs. Some of the most successful conservation initiatives in Canada have shared some commons characteristics. These include providing a compelling vision, identifying high-priority habitat areas, establishing clear and numerical targets, and establishing long-term, 25-plus year, commitments. They are integrated with other levels of government, partnered with NGOs and industry, and focused—for example, having targets such as the number of ducks, the full flight target, in the North American waterfowl management plan, or the cleanup of specific polluted sites in the Great Lakes agreement. Lastly, they are landscape- and ecosystem-based. We recommend that the component programs within the NCP, national conservation plan, incorporate these principles.

The NCP has referred to creating a network of protected areas that were initially talked about as parks. These have their place, but many other tools can also be effective in conserving habitat. We believe that it is important to take a broader definition of conservation management and therefore recommend that land conserved through other tools, such as purchased property, easements, management agreements, tax incentives, or other mechanisms that provide long-term habitat security, be included in the network of conserved areas.

By mapping the full range of conserved areas, the government could gain a better understanding of where these areas line up spatially, where corridors of connectivity exist, and where high-value properties are. This will help increase the impact of conservation investment by ensuring that funds are targeted to the most important areas.

Another important step of the conservation plan should be to help transition conservation programs, and for the federal to be more proactive. Proactive planning and actions can help achieve positive outcomes as part of a plan that helps wildlife and that also helps industry and society. For example, in areas where there is much crown land, this could be achieved through the support of regional conservation plans. These would likely have to be watershed-based and done in association with provinces, since the federal government is responsible for fish and fish habitat, but not most terrestrial habitat or species that aren't endangered.

Regional conservation plans like this can achieve several goals including greater clarity for industry, improved conservation outcomes in areas of development, and improved understanding of shared goals such as maintaining market access or perhaps acquiring new market access for industries in the area. An important step in being less reactive would be for the national conservation plan to support a net gain approach to habitat management in which the principles of avoid, minimize, and mitigate loss of habitat are applied. In other words, first avoid loss, then minimize any loss, and when loss is unavoidable, mitigate it by compensating to restore and conserve a greater amount of similar habitats so that there is a net gain of habitat achieved.

The CWF reviewed economic incentives and programs aimed at promoting stewardship in Canada, Australia, and the United States in preparation for this hearing. The most common instruments were grants, tax reductions, easements, conservation auctions or tenders, and various combinations of those tools. These are all also common in Canada. However, there are three things we observed about these programs that we believe are important to consider in the development of a national conservation plan.

Our first observation is incentive levels. Although not a comprehensive analysis, one observation of the programs' review to date is that the programs providing incentives or payments of some type in the U.S. appear to pay landowners a higher amount of the cost for the conservation action being encouraged. For example, the U.S. wildlife habitat incentive program, which is aimed at improving, protecting, and restoring habitat of significant and important areas, pays up to 90% of the incurred cost to implement conservation practices. This is up to $50,000 per year for individual landowners. Through the U.S. wetlands reserve program of permanent easements, 30-year easements, and restoration cost-share agreements, payments range from 75% to 100% of restoration cost. That also allows compatible uses of the land, so it includes industrial agriculture. Similarly, the tax credits for donations of land easements in the U.S. are often greater than those allowed here.

Second is market-based approaches. There are two market-based habitat conservation tools that we'd like to bring to the attention of the committee. We are not endorsing these programs. We have not done a really serious review of the implications. However, they are unique and worthy of examination for potential application in Canada.

The first is a tax credit transfer. This tax credit system differs from other conservation easement or property donation tax credits common in Canada in that the tax credits can be sold by the landowner to a third party. That's either an individual or a corporation.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

You have about a minute, if you could wrap up please.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Rick Bates

Yikes, okay.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'm sorry about that.

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Rick Bates

The second is a transfer of development credits. In those, basically, you can trade credits where development takes place. It helps ease pressure in areas of high development.

Third is innovation. In Australia there's a program that provides grants specifically for innovative conservation programs.

In species-at-risk, we have a couple of recommendations. I'll jump directly to the specific ones. First, improve the implementation of the act. There are four things there. One is that it is important to clarify what effective protection means in the policy, and in so doing be clear that legally protected is not the standard to be met, but rather, be clear that voluntary actions can also achieve the standard of effective protection. The language of this policy should recognize that a voluntary action may not be perfect, but with a clear goal and monitoring of progress we can determine whether the measure is effective. For example, if a business, municipality, or an individual has a plan that is being applied and having a positive effect, that's important progress.

Conservation agreements are a tool that have been underused but hold much promise. There are opportunities for umbrella agreements—

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

We're two minutes over. I encourage you to try to weave in some of your concluding statements in some of your responses to our committee members. This is to give all our other members equal time. I'm sorry about that.

We'll move now to Mr. Mark Hubert, Forest Products Association of Canada.

9:20 a.m.

Mark Hubert Vice-President, Environmental Leadership, Forest Products Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks to the committee for the invitation to be here today.

I'm here representing the Forest Products Association of Canada, the national voice of the wood, pulp, and paper sector, and the 19 members we specifically represent. I am joined by my colleague Kate Lindsay, who is a wildlife biologist, or a conservation biologist, with the Forest Products Association as well.

The forest sector employs about 230,000 in 200 communities across the country, mostly in rural communities, from coast to coast. Managed lands in Canada total about 230 million hectares across the country, and FPAC members sustainably manage about 90 million of these. To give you a bit of context, that is about two and a half times the size of Germany and about double the size of Sweden. That's just for some geographic positioning.

Given the nature and the breadth of forestry and the way forestry is practised in Canada, the sector is uniquely positioned to play an important role in the discussions related to sustainable resource management, and particularly to conservation and social sustainability.

Examples of what I often talk about as reflecting the conservation ethic, which was referenced earlier here, that exists in the Canadian forest sector include the following: sustainable forest management certification; initiatives to develop conservation planning principles that acknowledge the importance of both fully protected areas and a managed landscape in the context of habitat conservation; our work as signatories to the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, an agreement built on the recognition of the importance of both conservation and a vibrant forest sector; and FPAC's forward-looking vision 2020.

I'll touch on each of these briefly.

First is certification. As a condition of membership in 2001, FPAC became the first industry association in the world to mandate that each of its members certify their forestry operations to one of three sustainable forest management certification systems applicable in the North American context. These are the systems administered by the Canadian Standards Association; the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which is based out of the U.S.; and the Forest Stewardship Council, which actually had its roots in Canada but is broadly an international system as well. All three certification programs are comprehensive and certify comprehensive environmental, social, and economic standards in forest management.

Canada is the world leader in sustainable forest management certification. We have about 150 million hectares certified across the country. That equals about 40% of the world's total of sustainable forest management lands around the globe. Certification bolsters an already strong regulatory framework that exists in Canada. In fact, Canada's forestry regulations and laws have been cited in a study by Yale University as being among the most stringent in the world.

Of the many requirements to become certified, perhaps the most significant or most relevant to this discussion today is the requirement to conserve biological diversity. The exact language among the three certification standards differs, but the fundamental consistency exists around maintaining naturally occurring ecosystems, habitat for species at risk, and habitat with high conservation value. Through certification, the concept of conservation is de facto built into the way we practise forestry in Canada, across the country.

Additional requirements within certification address the protection of riparian areas, or areas around waterways; the protection and maintenance of biologically or culturally significant sites; the use of ecosystem-based management practices; and the development of long-term research programs focused specifically on biodiversity. All of these elements of certification provide for the conservation of important habitat.

A few words about conservation planning specifically.... Over the past decade we have worked both as industry and with partners—some at the table here today—such as the Canadian Boreal Initiative, the Canadian Forest Service, specifically, Ducks Unlimited, just to name a few, on issues that have helped to ensure that necessary and proper attention is given to conservation and stewardship.

Protected areas and sustainable resource management are complementary approaches to maintaining ecological integrity. Protection helps to sustain poorly known and sensitive species and functions, and provides an ecological baseline for comparisons. Because protection occurs on a landscape with resource development, sustainable resource management is also an essential part of comprehensive conservation. Sustainable management helps to support wildlife populations, to facilitate movement of species and populations between protected areas, and to maintain the integrity of aquatic systems.

Conservation plans then inform land use planning processes, where social choices are made with respect to land use allocations in order to achieve ecological, economic, and cultural values. Conservation planning in the forest sector is integral to our operations on a daily basis, and is in effect an exercise to identify strategies to maintain ecological integrity in a way that also addresses socio-economic considerations.

Issues with respect to certification and conservation planning, which I mentioned earlier in my remarks here, are encompassed in some of the work taking place within our activity under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The CBFA is an historic agreement that was intended to signify a new era of collaboration between the forest sector and the environmental community. It covers 76 million hectares of land across the country, making it the largest conservation and business agreement ever reached in history anywhere in the world.

Implementation has not been without its challenges, and we continue to have them. But developing something as large and complex as an agreement that touches on everything—from forest practices to species conservation, to protected areas, to climate change, to the economic diversity and prosperity of the sector, and recognition for the practices that occur in Canada—is something that was not expected to be anything but hard work. It has been and will continue to be. That said, some of the most challenging work in life can also often be the most rewarding.

Achievements to date include a jointly developed blueprint for caribou action planning. At the national level this is very relevant in the context of SARA, and we believe it is the most comprehensive work of its kind done anywhere. A similar framework has been developed for developing recommendations for protected areas. It's supported by joint science and recognizes that governments, at the end of the day, are the ultimate land use decision-makers.

A win-win conservation plan has been developed in northeastern Ontario that protects caribou while increasing wood supply to northern communities and to mills. So far it has been endorsed by signatories, by communities, and by first nations. We're awaiting provincial government support for implementation and hope to see that soon.

These are just a few examples of the work that's taking place under the CBFA. As I say, it has taken time and will continue to take time, but we're confident we will continue to produce results.

With respect to species at risk, consistent with the rationale behind the initiatives mentioned so far, FPAC continues to participate in activities related to federal legislation. This includes work aimed at effective implementation of the Species at Risk Act. In this context we're keenly interested in the creation or clarification of policy regarding the use of compliance mechanisms such as, for example, conservation agreements, permits, offsets—all of which are contemplated or referenced within the context of the act.

FPAC is also supportive of a stronger and clearer relationship between species recovery strategies and socio-economic considerations as federal government work moves forward.

It's worth noting, as has been stated by others at the table here, that the forest sector operates primarily on provincial crown land. We absolutely see a benefit in creating national conservation objectives, but would highlight the importance of engaging in the process those involved with land management decisions.

I'll finish with a reference to our vision 2020 campaign. The forest sector is actively transforming, and last year we launched vision 2020 to help articulate how we intend, as the forest sector, to reach our full potential as a dynamic and future-oriented contributor to the Canadian economy. Vision 2020 sets out ambitious goals in three specific areas: products, people, and performance.

With respect to products, the goal is to generate an additional $20 billion of economic activity from new innovations and growing markets. With respect to people, it's to renew our workforce with at least 60,000 new recruits, including women, aboriginal people, and immigrants. With respect to performance, most relevant to the conversation we will have here today, it's to deliver a 35% further improvement in the sector's environmental footprint.

FPAC has identified 12 parameters by which we will measure ourselves. They relate, for example, to greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water, and of course, management practices. It so happens that both metrics, with respect to the forest management practices we have identified, have to do with habitat conservation.

With that, I'll conclude and say thank you. I look forward to the discussion.

9:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Hubert.

We're going to move now to the questions from committee members. The first round is seven minutes each.

We'll begin with Mr. Sopuck.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much.

I want to compliment our presenters on the quality of their presentations. What I appreciated about all four of them was your focus on delivering environmental results. This is most refreshing. Too often these days the environment debate is a generalized, partisan, emotional debate, with an inordinate focus on process.

Mr. Gratton, quickly, what is the environmental footprint of hard rock mining and the traditional mining sector in Canada in the area you affect, excluding the oil sands and open-pit mines?

9:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

I think the total footprint over the history of mining in Canada is 0.03%

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

So it's an extremely small area?

9:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

It's a small area.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I was interested, Mr. Gratton, in your comments on the flexibility of mitigation measures. Having worked in the oil sands myself, I have seen the effects of very rigid mitigation policies. Can you expand on what you would like to see in terms of federal mitigation policies, so that you would get the flexibility you would need but also deliver even better environmental results?

9:30 a.m.

Ben Chalmers Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Mining Association of Canada

I think when we're talking about conservation objectives we often default to land protection and taking habitat out of use in some way, shape, or form. In some cases that's the right course of action. However, there are also instances where habitat is not necessarily the critical factor and there are other actions that could be included, such as population enhancement or predator control, activities that are often oriented to be maybe a little more creative than just solely taking habitat out of functional land use for development.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Go ahead.

9:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada

Pierre Gratton

In our brief, one of the examples was on fisheries, where until recently the opportunities to look at ways to compensate and to adhere to the no net loss principle was really restricted to the mine lease. It narrowly circumscribed the opportunities to actually achieve those outcomes.

There was one example, I recall, with the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories where they spent tens of millions of dollars on a creek diversion on the mine site. They did it to provide the fish a route around the project. The company at the time was thinking that what they could have done for conservation with this money off property would have been so much more valuable.

We're starting to see more openness towards not just looking narrowly at the physical footprint of where the mine is but to look a little more broadly. I think that opens up a lot more possibilities. For our sector, particularly where we operate where there's a lot of first nation communities or aboriginal communities, that also opens up the possibility of working with them to identify conservation options, to achieve those kinds of objectives to compensate for the impacts the mine might have.