Evidence of meeting #57 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 forward.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Martin  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment
Janet King  President, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
Carol Najm  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Finance Branch, Department of the Environment
Alan Latourelle  Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada
Ron Hallman  President, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

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 57. We're meeting today, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), on the main estimates, 2015-16: vote 1 under Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; votes 1 and 5 under Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency; votes 1, 5, and 10 under Environment; and votes 1 and 5 under Parks Canada Agency. These were referred to the committee on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

Appearing this morning, we have Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of the Environment. She's joined by a number of her colleagues from the department. I'll let her introduce those more appropriately later.

Welcome, Minister. We'll give you 10 minutes for an opening statement, followed by questions from our committee members. Please proceed.

8:45 a.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Thank you.

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for having me.

Let me start off by expressing my appreciation to the committee for the invitation to appear once again to discuss the main estimates. I'm joined today by my deputy minister, Michael Martin; the CEO of Parks Canada, Alan Latourelle; and the president of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Ron Hallman; and Janet King, president of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

I'll begin with a brief statement and after that we will answer any questions that you may have. The main estimates before us today identify the initial budget requirements for Environment Canada and my portfolio agencies to carry out their important business for Canadians. The business and how we intend to move forward with these estimates will largely be the focus of my remarks.

First of all, I would like to stress that Environment Canada has one of the largest science programs in the federal government. Our world-class science provides the critical information we need to help ensure a clean, safe, and sustainable environment for Canada.

Secondly, I would like to highlight to the committee that this government recognizes that a healthy environment is supported and maintained by a healthy economy. Our focus has been to protect both the environment and the economy.

The third point that I would like to emphasize is that Canada's environment is a shared responsibility between all levels of government. Collaboration among governments is absolutely essential to progress on any environmental issues. This is why we have been working with the provinces and the territories to develop, implement, and enforce meaningful regulations and policies that protect our environment. That includes regulating two of Canada's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions—transportation and coal-fired electricity—to address climate change and improve air quality.

As a result of Canada's coal regulations, Canadians can expect to see a cumulative reduction of about 240 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during the first 21 years. This is equal to removing 2.6 million personal vehicles from the roads per year over that period. We have also invested more than $10 billion in green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, cleaner fuels, and smarter power grids. We intend to regulate HFCs, which are the most potent and fastest-growing greenhouse gases in the world.

In addition, I recently announced three actions to further reduce Canada's emissions. We intend to develop regulations that are aligned with the United States to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, while ensuring Canadian companies remain competitive. We also plan to develop regulations for the production of chemicals and nitrogen fertilizers, which are two of the largest sources of emissions in Canada's manufacturing sector. As well, we intend to build on our existing regulations for coal-fired electricity generation by taking actions to regulate emissions from natural gas-fired electricity generation.

Canada already has one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, with nearly 80% of our electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases. These new regulations will strengthen our position as a clean energy leader. Moving forward, we will work together cooperatively with the provinces and the territories, while respecting their jurisdictions.

On the international stage, Canada has already fully delivered on its $1.2-billion investments in fast-start financing. We also pledged $300 million to the Green Climate Fund to support the international community's efforts to address climate change. Earlier this month I announced that Canada will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is fair and ambitious, and it is in line with other major industrialized countries and reflects our national circumstances, including Canada's position as a world leader in clean electricity generation.

I'm also glad to report to the committee that Canada's targets have been positively received internationally as delegates of several countries personally thanked me last week in Berlin for bringing forward such an ambitious target. Additionally, while I was in Berlin, I was able to highlight Canada's leadership during its Arctic Council chairmanship, where we successfully saw the creation of a framework to address black carbon and methane. Building on these results, I invited countries to sign on to this framework to phase out these climate pollutants.

In addition to these actions on climate change, our government introduced the national conservation plan last May. The plan includes $252 million over a five-year period for a variety of conservation initiatives. Since its launch we have already made substantial progress on stewardship efforts to conserve and restore lands and waters across the country.

Moving forward, budget 2015 includes $75 million over three years to help conserve Canada's species at risk and their valuable habitat through the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.

To further this progress, this February, I held the first ever meeting of federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for conservation, wildlife, and biodiversity. This was a very important meeting and it resulted in a number of constructive decisions, such as establishing a federal-provincial-territorial task force for cooperation to address invasive species in Canada. The federal-provincial-territorial ministers also committed to working more closely on issues related to species at risk, and on initiatives for selected species such as caribou and bats.

These achievements demonstrate our government's ability to bring stakeholders together and engage them in meaningful discussions on issues of national importance.

At the same time Parks Canada has been playing a valuable role in expanding Canada's network of protected areas. Specifically, actions taken last year formally enshrined the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve and the Ukkusiksalik National Park of Canada in legislation. More recently we passed the legislation to create Rouge National Urban Park.

Since we formed the government, the budget for Parks Canada has increased by over 50%. This historic investment by our government is helping overcome the neglect Parks Canada had received under the previous government.

We're also continuing to improve water quality. We have made significant investments to protect and restore key water bodies, including the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg, and Lake Simcoe. We have a long history of working closely with Ontario and the United States and others to improve Great Lakes water quality, clean up contaminated sites, and restore and protect this important ecosystem.

Over the past five years we have been investing in new marine weather forecasts and bulletins, as well as better intelligence on sea ice conditions and waves, contributing to the safe navigation of Arctic waters. For example, earlier this year I announced an investment of $134 million that will allow Environment Canada to make upgrades to the monitoring networks and to the weather warnings and forecasts.

Budget 2015 is also investing $34 million over five years in the meteorological and navigational warning services to support safe marine navigation in the Arctic. Environment Canada will also invest $24.5 million over the next two years for capital infrastructure projects that will enhance services in the north and the access to wildlife areas.

Turning to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, budget 2015 will provide $34 million to the agency to conduct consultations related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I am also responsible for CanNor, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. Since its creation in 2009, CanNor has invested over $208 million in over 950 projects in sectors such as tourism, energy, and the fisheries, helping to strengthen training and skills development, community infrastructure, as well as small and medium enterprises. Right now it is working with over 30 companies. This represents a potential for $22.2 billion in capital infrastructure, and over 10,000 operating jobs in the north.

Mr. Chair, these are just a few highlights of the work we do, and our accomplishments. As you can see, their contribution is extremely important to Canadians. To continue our good work for Environment Canada the main estimates total is $961.1 million. Compared with last year's main estimates, this is a planned spending increase of $28.9 million or 3.1%.

New funding includes $46.6 million to implement the national conservation plan. The estimates also include $20.1 million to modernize Canada's weather services monitoring and prediction infrastructure. In addition, this government is also investing $5.3 million to continue the development and implementation of regulations under the clean air regulatory agenda, which supports Canada's actions to address climate change.

Turning to Parks Canada, the main estimates total $737.3 million. Compared to last year this is an increase of $124.8 million. This is due to our record investments through economic action plan 2014 to make improvements to highways, bridges, and dams located in national parks and along historic canals.

Our government is also investing $2.6 billion to support infrastructure improvements to national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. This historic investment is the largest in the history of Parks Canada and will be reflected in the supplementary estimates.

For the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, its planned expenditure for 2015-16 is $50.7 million. Compared to last year, this is an increase of approximately $20 million.

As for CEAA, budget 2015 includes $34 million over five years to continue consultations with Canadians related to projects assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and $135 million over five years for the major projects management office initiative. These funding allocations will be reflected in future estimates.

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank you and the committee for your time today, and I'd be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Minister.

That's a lot of ground to cover in a very short time and you did it perfectly.

Let's move to Mr. Carrie for our first seven minutes.

May 26th, 2015 / 8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I want to thank the minister and her officials for being here. It's a pleasure to have you here.

I wanted to start right into the questions because your department and our government as a whole have taken significant strides toward combatting climate change. I was wondering if you could please provide the committee with some of the domestic actions that have been taken.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you for that question.

Our government is reducing the greenhouse gas emissions through a sector-by-sector regulatory approach. Regulations are now in place for two of this country's largest sources of emissions. The first is the transportation sector and second is the electricity generation sector. Though Canada's electricity systems are already some of the cleanest in the world, we have taken steps to developing an even cleaner electricity supply. In 2012 we published final regulations to reduce emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector. In 2015 we proposed the multi-sector air pollutants regulations to reduce air pollutants from industrial boilers and heaters, cement manufacturing, and stationary engines.

In the same year, we announced that we intend to regulate HFCs, which will enable Canada to reduce and limit potent greenhouse gas emissions. We're also helping Canadians adapt to climate change. Since 2006 the government invested $235 million in domestic adaptation initiatives to improve the understanding of climate change and to help Canadians plan for the climate impact.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much.

What has our government done in regard to improving energy efficiency and for greener infrastructure?

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Our government has invested $10 billion in green infrastructure, clean energy, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, cleaner fuels, and smarter grids. Some of the examples of that are the $950 million invested toward development and demonstrations of clean technology products such as the hybrid power plants, and $1.4 billion to encourage the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. More than $580 million went toward carbon capture and storage research development demonstration initiatives.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Minister, as you know, I'm the MP for Oshawa, and I'm always interested in sharing with Canadians what we're doing for the automotive sector. I was wondering if you could share with the committee some of the actions that we're taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

The greenhouse gas emissions standards for the transportation sector, harmonized with the United States, are in place for new cars and light trucks. In 2014, the final regulations to further limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks of model year 2017 and beyond were released. As a result of these regulations, it is projected the average greenhouse gas emissions from 2025 vehicles will be reduced by 50% from those sold in 2008.

With regard to the heavy duty vehicles, in 2014 our government announced it intends to start developing more stringent standards to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption from the post-2018 model year heavy duty vehicles and engines. In September 2014 our government published proposed regulations to align with the United States' tier 3 vehicle emission and fuel standards. The proposed regulations would introduce more stringent standards for cars, light duty trucks, certain heavy duty vehicles, and for the 2017 and later models that would reduce smog-forming air pollutant emissions by up to 80% compared to the current standards. This would also reduce the amount of sulphur in gasolines by nearly 70% beginning in 2017.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

That's very good.

Minister, you've mentioned how environment in Canada is a shared jurisdiction, so I was wondering what Environment Canada has done to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments on conservation.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

This year I met with the provincial and territorial ministers in Ottawa to discuss conservation, wildlife, and biodiversity issues. The meeting allowed us to discuss our shared challenges and opportunities regarding biodiversity, species at risk, invasive species, and to renew our commitment to work together on key priority areas.

We committed to collaborating on species-at-risk policy approaches. We will work together on initiatives to protect species, such as caribou and bats, and to conserve and protect their habitats. We also agreed to establish a federal-provincial-territorial task force to support future collaborative efforts to fight against invasive alien species in Canada.

We agreed to meet on an ongoing basis and to foster further cooperation among our jurisdictions. We also had the opportunity to hear the perspectives offered by representatives of aboriginal groups from Canada, conservation-oriented groups, hunting and angling organizations, as well as industry stakeholders.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Back to climate change. Would you be able to provide us with some of the accomplishments that have been made on climate change on the international front?

9 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Canada is working with the international community to develop a fair and effective global agreement on climate change. That includes all major emitters. The establishment of a climate change agreement covering all major emitters has been a long-standing objective for Canada. It has been a key focus of our engagement under the United Nations process.

Earlier this month, I announced that Canada will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. A new global agreement on climate change is expected to be concluded in December 2015 in Paris at COP 21, and will take effect in 2020.

Canada extends its efforts beyond the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by working with other countries through complementary forums, such as the Arctic Council, the Montreal protocol, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to develop practical, collaborative initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and short-lived climate pollutants.

Canada is a co-founder and lead partner in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Playing a lead role in the development and implementation of several initiatives such as reducing black carbon emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines, as well as mitigating black carbon and methane emissions. Under our chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Canada also advanced the development of a new framework for actions on black carbon and methane to address the short-lived climate pollutants in the Arctic. Canada has also partnered with the United States and Mexico in proposing an amendment to the Montreal protocol to phase out the consumption and production of HFCs.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Mr. Carrie.

Mr. Bevington.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Madam Minister, for joining us here today.

You talked about a number of things like renewable energy and the role the federal government has played in the past in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of those programs are no longer in place, yet we're at a point when the investment in renewable energy is very important. We're falling behind other countries in the development of wind and solar.

You talk about black carbon, yet within the north of Canada—Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon—many of our communities are still heavily reliant on diesel generating facilities, fuel oil for heating. These are all contributors to black carbon.

Can you explain how your government is going to take some action on black carbon and with renewables? Where is the investment going forward that you're proposing for renewable energy?

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

First of all, on the black carbon and methane initiatives, Canada played a leadership role in establishing the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which is now fully established with a number of countries and organizations involved in addressing black carbon and methane. It was important for Canada to take a leadership role in addressing black carbon and methane as it affects the Arctic of Canada.

The majority of the methane and black carbon are produced outside the Arctic, so we took the leadership role in establishing the Climate and Clean Air Coalition that functions to this day. A number of initiatives and projects are being addressed through that process, and Canada has invested to address further reductions in that through the Arctic Council chairmanship.

As you know, during the two years of our chairmanship we addressed those two areas, and at the G-7 forum introduced—

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Could you indicate what money you're putting into this effort?

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

—the framework to G-7 ministers to take further actions in addressing black carbon and methane. As I said before, the majority of those are produced outside of Canada's Arctic and it was important to take that leadership role.

On the issue of renewable energy, in my opening remarks I stated that we have put in $10 billion to support renewable energy. That program will continue under NRCan.

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

You mentioned a large investment in carbon capture and storage. What has been the result of that investment?

9:05 a.m.

Michael Martin Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Mr. Chairman, one of the principal and the largest investments, of about $250 million, supported the development by SaskPower of the Boundary Dam, which is the world's first commercial carbon capture and storage facility in a coal-fired plant. That is currently operational today.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Industry has turned its back on carbon capture and storage because they don't recognize that it has economic potential right now. We've seen projects in Alberta being shut down. What is the result of the projects that you've invested in, in terms of their economic viability in the long term?

9:05 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Michael Martin

The SaskPower project is currently operational. It is true that part of the rationale for public investment in these projects is because the cost of proving these technologies at a commercial scale is quite expensive. But the level of international interest in the launch of the SaskPower project at Boundary Dam, I think, speaks to the importance of the technology globally going forward, and the fact that it is currently operational. The economics over time will improve, I think, as more and more commercial-scale projects are developed worldwide.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

With renewable energy, with solar, wind, we've seen remarkable improvements in the economics of those projects. Can you give us the sense that you have, Madam Minister, about the investment that should take place in northern Canada in these areas, and what effort the federal government has put into investing in renewable energy in northern communities?

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

Mr. Chair, we have made investments to support renewable energy in the north. I think of Yukon as well as the Northwest Territories. Through the Arctic Council chairmanship we also established the Arctic Economic Council, a signature initiative of our chairmanship that will allow Arctic nations to collaborate in a number of opportunities in developing alternative energy in the north. That is led by a number of aboriginal groups, as well as private industry, to allow Arctic nations to collaborate and to share information on alternative energies to diesel in Canada's Arctic.

I launched that in September and it's now functional. One of the priority initiatives of the Arctic Economic Council is to collaborate in exploring alternative energies that can be produced in the Arctic, that work in the Arctic. I'm looking forward to the outcome of that.

Part of developing this sector in the north is that we have to do research, we have to invest in research that supports alternatives to diesel. That is an issue that is a priority for us. That's why we have put $10 billion into alternative energy. But research, of course, is required to produce these technologies in the north, and that's what we're committed to doing.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

I'm going to move over to CanNor. Over the last number of years you've had a very difficult audit by the Auditor General. In the beginning, CanNor was set up to be headquartered in Iqaluit. Most of the top staff in that department still reside in this part of the country. You've had difficulty in dealing with the expenditures for developing the north and putting those dollars forward. You've turned back money in the last number of years.

Can you tell me what has been done to fully staff the Iqaluit office with the directors and all the main personnel for this department?