Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, everyone. First of all I want to thank you for rescheduling my appearance before this committee. I know we had to reschedule it about a month ago, so thank you for doing that. I want to begin by providing you a brief statement and after I would be happy to answer questions.
The opportunity to serve Canadians through the portfolios of Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and CEAA is a great honour for me. Environment Canada serves Canadians 24 hours a day, every day, and each year the department issues about 1.5 million weather forecasts, conducts about 8,600 inspections, and prosecutes over 340 violations of environmental law.
As you are aware, Environment Canada is a science-based department. For this reason, since 2006, our government has invested over $4 billion in science and technology at Environment Canada alone. With this solid scientific foundation, Environment Canada is making substantial contributions to meeting the government's priority of a clean and healthy environment.
Two weeks ago Prime Minister Harper and I launched the national conservation plan. It will help to conserve and restore Canada's land and waters, and connect Canadians to nature. The plan provides a more coordinated approach for conservation efforts across Canada and will encourage on-the-ground actions and partnerships leading to tangible results.
The plan will also expand opportunities for partnerships including municipalities, environmental interest groups, hunters and anglers, land owners, and community groups to take practical actions to safeguard the lands and waters around them. It also builds on the actions and efforts of countless Canadians who are working to conserve and protect our rich natural heritage.
Last week, building on the priorities announced with the national conservation plan, I was in Halifax to announce further funding through the eco-action community funding program. This program helps to advance these goals and promotes the kind of effective collaboration work that is so important to the national conservation plan. The funding program will provide community groups with financial support for projects that have measurable positive impacts on the environment.
As well, last week I also announced in Fredericton further investments to the science horizons youth internship program, which also supports the national conservation plan. It will help post-secondary students gain valuable work experience while helping to protect Canada's environment. The national conservation plan is one of the many initiatives we have undertaken to safeguard Canada's environment.
Since we formed government, we have created two national marine conservation areas, three marine protected areas, three national wildlife areas, and two national parks. We are also making important investments to help maintain the infrastructure of our national parks. In budget 2014 we are investing $391 million to maintain and repair the dams, bridges, and highways. In the main estimates this year, we are also allocating $4 million for dams and locks along the Trent-Severn Waterway, and $1 million for the historic canals.
In addition to these accomplishments, we are creating more parks. A few weeks ago the Senate tabled a new bill to establish the national park reserve in the Northwest Territories. This will result in more than 85% of the entire watershed being protected from development. The creation of this park has been years in the making, involving consultations with the communities, aboriginal groups, industry, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
We are also working to create Canada's first national urban park, the Rouge national urban park in the greater Toronto area. Establishing the Rouge national urban park will further build on our government's success in expanding Canada's system of protected areas. The first of its kind in Canada, this new park will be 16 times larger than the size of New York's Central Park and will be readily accessible to 20% of Canada's total population. In our main estimates this year, we're allocating $19.6 million to support the development of this park.
Environment Canada is also advancing its work to safeguard water resources, an area that I know is of interest to this committee.
In 2012 we signed a modernized Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We renewed and expanded the Lake Simcoe-southeastern Georgian Bay cleanup fund. We are allocating $7.6 million in our main estimates this year to help restore the ecological health of Lake Simcoe and southeastern Georgian Bay, and improve water quality for the residents and wildlife of the region. We're also continuing to implement the Canada-Quebec agreement on the St. Lawrence and helping to clean up Lake Winnipeg through the Lake Winnipeg Basin initiative.
To protect the air Canadians breathe, we work extensively with provincial and territorial governments, and industry, health, environmental, and non-governmental organizations to develop Canada's air quality management system. This provides a coherent Canada-wide approach to ensuring good air quality across Canada.
We're also working to reduce mercury, a toxic element in our environment that could cause serious health problems for Canadians. This past October, Canada signed the Minamata Convention, a new international treaty, to reduce major sources of global mercury emissions and releases to the environment.
We recognize the serious problems of climate change and are addressing them through our sector-by-sector approach, which advances both our environmental and economic objectives. We introduced the strict regulations that made Canada the first major coal user to ban construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation plants. We also put in place greenhouse gas regulations for coal-fired electricity that are expected to remove 6,600 kilograms of mercury from the atmosphere between 2015 and 2035.
We introduced regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for passenger vehicles and light trucks for model years 2011 to 2016. In 2012 we also proposed a second phase of regulations for model year 2017 vehicles and beyond. As a result of these proposed regulations, we can look forward to new cars and light trucks made in 2025 that emit 50% less greenhouse gas and consume up to 50% less fuel than the 2008 models. In addition we can expect to see reductions of up to 23% in greenhouse gas emissions from 2014 model heavy-duty vehicles and later model years, as a result of regulations we introduced last year.
Internationally, our government is continuing to work with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to achieve a single new international climate change agreement that includes meaningful commitments by all major emitters.
Canada is also a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. It's aim is to reduce climate pollutants that are potent global warmers and dangerous air pollutants. The coalition finances projects that will help to address climate change and improve the health of millions of citizens around the world. We are a founding member and a major financial contributor to an international coalition, taking action to reduce pollutants such as black carbon and methane.
That is not all. We fully delivered on our fast-start financing commitment of $1.2 billion to support a range of climate change projects in over 60 developing countries. This is the largest contribution the Government of Canada has ever made to international climate change financing.
Turning to CEAA, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, now in place, Canadians can expect predictable timely review, reduced duplication, stronger environmental protection, and enhanced consultation with aboriginal peoples.
The act establishes legal timelines for environmental assessments. Instead of taking months, proponents receive a decision about whether a federal project assessment is required within 45 days. The agency is also coordinating consultation with aboriginal groups in a manner that is respectful, responsive, and consistent with the honour of the crown.
Moving forward, the agency will continue to deliver high-quality environmental assessments of major projects built on effective relationships with aboriginal peoples, and play a lead role in shaping the future of federal environmental assessments.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my opening remarks for this afternoon's committee appearance. I look forward to responding to your questions.