Evidence of meeting #55 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was data.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Darren Goetze  Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment
John Moffet  Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment
Julie Gelfand  Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Geneviève Béchard  Director General, Monitoring and Data Services Directorate, Department of the Environment
Andrew Ferguson  Principal, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

9:20 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Julie Gelfand

I'm going to ask Andrew to respond.

9:20 a.m.

Andrew Ferguson Principal, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

It's been a while since we've looked at this, but my recollection is that in 2010, when we did look at it, we saw recognized standards from the World Meteorological Organization for well-designed water monitoring systems. I guess they look at the parameters, but they look at the geography and the parameters that need to be monitored and give guidelines for coverage and so on.

So there are standards. I think there are some at the United States Geological Survey as well. They have a sort of model too.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

The standards are from the World Meteorological...?

9:20 a.m.

Principal, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Andrew Ferguson

Organization.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thanks.

My question is for Environment Canada, then, on these standards from the World Meteorological Organization. Which of these standards, if any, are being used to guide the joint project on oil sands water monitoring? Have these standards been taken into account when designing the oil sands water-monitoring project?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment

Darren Goetze

I'd have to say that when we looked at the design for the JOSM water monitoring with the Province of Alberta and when that system was designed, we looked at a number of international standards. We also consulted with an international panel of scientific experts on the design, and we are in fact conducting an independent review of the implementation of the JOSM three-year plan right now. I'm not sure which exact standards are being referred to, but I can assure you that we did look at a range of standards at that time.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

So you've looked broadly across the world for best practices?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Moffet.

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

John Moffet

I suspect that the WMO standards Mr. Ferguson was referring to primarily had to do with water quantity monitoring standards that would be adhered to by the program Ms. Béchard supervises. It's important to adhere to those kinds of standards.

Canada is a significant contributor to the scientific and standard development at the WMO. In fact, Canada is currently the president of the WMO, for a second term.

Water quality obviously has to adhere to generically similar kinds of considerations in order to ensure robustness and continuity over time, but the precise standards would be quite different, because we're looking at quality instead of quantity.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Very quickly, Ms. Gelfand.

9:20 a.m.

Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Julie Gelfand

What I was going to suggest, Megan, is that we can get back to you as well on the results of the 2011 study that we did. We did publish it. Unfortunately, this request to come today was on very short notice and I wasn't able to review that in great detail.

Some of the questions we suggested to you, though, such as accountability, independence, systematic funding over time, meeting user needs, making sure that the information will be able to inform legislation, and gaps, are some of those criteria that you would be looking for. We can get back to you in greater detail with the results of our 2011 study.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thanks.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

You have 10 seconds. Go for it. You can do it.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

What happens if more than 60% of the money is spent? What's going to happen? What happens beyond 2015?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

A quick response, please, Mr. Goetze.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment

Darren Goetze

We are continuing our work with the Province of Alberta to monitor the oil sands region right now. We can talk about the proportions if you'd like, but monitoring is continuing, and I can assure you that I have teams in the field doing water monitoring as we speak.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thanks.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thanks for that quick response.

Mr. Woodworth, please.

May 12th, 2015 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank all the witnesses.

It's very good of you to come today. It's a very important subject and one with a lot of meat in it. Quite frankly, speaking as a fellow lawyer, I'm frustrated today, as I often am, that I have seven minutes to delve into all of these very detailed issues.

That said, I'll begin with the issue of water quality. I'll direct my questions to Mr. Moffet, who can can hand them off if he wishes to do so.

I'll begin with the fact that over the past 10 years there has been an increase in the categories of “good” or “excellent” water quality in the monitoring that you've conducted. I'd like to get some insight from you as to why that is—a poser, right off the bat.

9:25 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Goetze.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment

Darren Goetze

First of all, I'd like to point out very quickly that the data we're looking at and the graphs you saw on page 7 actually represent 16 carefully selected sub-drainage basins across the country that are under particular pressure from human activities, from a range of things. Mr. Moffet alluded to those in his presentation.

These actually represent areas where you would expect water quality to be at greater risk. The fact that water quality is improving gradually over time would suggest that prudent water management decisions are being made that are resulting in better water quality over time.

That's the short version of the answer.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Are you able to provide any detail for me about the role that the Government of Canada has played in those prudent water management decisions that are resulting in the increase of excellent or good water quality in those stressed locations?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance, Department of the Environment

Darren Goetze

Well, certainly there has been a range of investments by the government over time, including things like the Great Lakes nutrients initiative and other investments. The Lake Winnipeg basin initiative was certainly another one.

Given the range of water basins that we're looking at, I think a gradual improvement in water would probably reflect actions by a range of government actors and, in fact, by our U.S. and state actors on the other side of the border as well. It's very much a cooperative effort for us to achieve better water quality.