Evidence of meeting #62 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 work.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

James Fortune  Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Mark Butler  Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

9:55 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Yes, and we'll make a point to make it all available to the committee. It's excellent science. Yes, it's been provided, and it all goes into this machine of policy development.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Again, it comes back to this. Mr. McKay made the comment about how, in the flooding in Manitoba, Winnipeg was the most affected. I would argue that point. I would say it's outside Winnipeg that it actually has the most effect, and that is on the working landscape.

Again, in conversations with those who are working on that landscape, who are being affected on an ongoing basis now with overland flooding, is that something you're also seeing uptake on? Are you seeing a growing knowledge of this in the agricultural community, that some of this work on wetland rehabilitation would also be for their benefit, small pieces here and there that would actually save them from major flooding across their fields over the years?

9:55 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

I would have to say yes, for sure. A great piece of research, which I'll also dig out, done by the University of Saskatchewan, identified the impact of wetland drainage and the additive nature that it contributed to that flooding. What really drives it home is when you see the wetland drainage that goes on. If one landowner does it, it affects another landowner. If in one province it happens a lot, it affects another province—or state. It's local, it's provincial, it's international even, in its scope.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

That's why we have the Lake of the Woods basin initiative happening right now too. They're working together, binationally with the United States and Canada, and provincially with Ontario and Manitoba. We're seeing some real progress in the work they're doing there to bring forward a plan. Part of that plan, we would hope, would include some wetland rehabilitation aspects.

Is that something that Ducks Unlimited has also been engaged in?

9:55 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Most of that work in the Lake of the Woods watershed would be in Minnesota, I believe. I can find out if our sister organization in the U.S. is involved in that.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Toet.

Ms. Leslie, please.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Fortune, we have such a short period of time to ask questions that we try not to use up our time doing other things, but I do really want to congratulate Ducks Unlimited for some of the work you're doing. In particular, I've had a chance to look at the document you put together on climate change and the amount of carbon that's actually sequestered thanks to wetlands. It's a really good calculation of the importance of our wetlands when it comes to combatting climate change. Congratulations on that.

On its website Ducks Unlimited says the North American waterfowl management plan is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in the world, which is a pretty broad statement. I find it interesting because it's one of these situations where you have NGOs, the private sector, and government all working together—under a piece of policy—to make something happen. You're certainly one of the organizations that is working there.

In terms of the success of that plan, would it be possible if one of those stakeholders didn't exist? We're here to talk about private sector and environment groups. Would it be possible if government, if that stakeholder, were not involved?

June 16th, 2015 / 9:55 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

If government is not involved, no. That program is a very strong partnership between government, the private sector, and conservation organizations, which are also part of the private sector.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Why can't it be just private sector and NGOs?

9:55 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Because the bulk of the funding that's provided through it is through challenge grants. It's legislation in Congress in the United States that makes it available. That is publicly funded money from the U.S. government. The Government of Canada has to be involved in managing the whole program and be engaged in the science and all the background evaluation of it. The program is enabled by the governments of both countries. Then when the challenge grants are in there and the activities line up with NGOs or private individuals, you have this incentive for everyone to collaborate inside the framework.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Okay, thanks.

Mr. Butler, I think about funding. I get the Ecology Action Centre's newsletter Between the Issues.; they just renamed it Ecology & Action. I try to stay up to date with what the Ecology Action Centre is doing and what kinds of projects are happening, and I do see when the private sector is involved in the EAC's work. I don't know this to be true, but it seems to me that private sector involvement with the Ecology Action Centre is for fun things, the easier things, the things we can see and touch, for example, coastal development. I see less involvement on the stuff that is more behind the scenes, a little tougher, things we can't touch.

I think about the fact that you have all these committees working on different issues. You have a marine committee, a coastal committee, and an energy committee. The energy committee works on everything from renewables to energy efficiency. It appears to me that it's tougher to get the private sector involved with that work. Is it just my interpretation of Between the Issues, or am I picking up on something there?

10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

Generally, I think you're right. For many businesses, even if privately they'll say to you that they think something is deplorable, for them publicly to take on another sector and its practices is perhaps not a good business proposition. So yes, they tend to fund things that don't involve conflict with other business sectors. I would say that for some of our work, then, we don't rely on the private sector for that type of funding. It comes from either our membership or private foundations.

10 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

I would have expected you to say it's from government funding as well.

10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

Well, I think that for some of our natural resources work, government funding would be a conflict of interest, or the government is unlikely to fund some of that stuff, so we have to go elsewhere for that funding.

Just to reiterate a theme that I know you're exploring, government is a key partner in all these things and must be, be it in setting a really high bar or creating a level playing field. I've done some work on the green economy, and I keep hearing from other jurisdictions that when government sets strong policy, it doesn't necessarily kill jobs; it can also hasten and create innovation. We've certainly seen that in the energy sector in some of the European jurisdictions.

Also, we hear sometimes from industry that they would like to do something but they worry that their competitors won't, which will give them competitive advantage at least in terms of cost, so they don't do it. So yes, there's a role for government in setting some strong standards.

Am I answering your question?

10 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Yes, thanks.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much.

Mr. Carrie, please.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Fortune, we're talking about partnerships. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on some of the partnerships that your organization is involved in. I believe you've done one with Irving Oil. Could you elaborate a little more on some of these?

10 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Sure.

Irving Oil is a significant energy company based in New Brunswick, right there in Saint John. They have a very large refinery. I believe it processes 300,000 barrels a day. It's a significant refinery. As you go into the refinery, there's a beautiful restored wetland there in the tidal area. It's our Red Head project and has been on the ground there for about 20 years, I believe. It's an on-site kind of mitigation offsetting exercise that was undertaken. That's an example.

When you partner with corporations like the Irving Oil group, you work with these companies around their values and your values. One of the values of Mr. Arthur Irving, who was one of our presidents at Ducks Unlimited Canada for a while, is education and research in the future, so Irving Oil, Ducks Unlimited, and Acadia University have established a research station in Beaubassin, New Brunswick. It's a beautiful area on the edge of the Bay of Fundy. Irving Oil supported the re-establishment of that facility, and they also provide some funding support, as we do, for students who are conducting research there on salt marsh restoration and the impacts of natural habitats in mitigating high tides, and how that's contributing to carbon sequestration and habitat—all the same functions that Mr. Butler was talking about—as well as naturalizing shorelines. That's a second example.

Also, for any other projects or initiatives that we're working on, the Irvings can be relied upon to support us financially on smaller-scale projects.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

We've heard from other witnesses that sometimes businesses don't tend to be really proactive in reaching out to organizations such as yours. Do you find that to be true at your organization? Or do you have a lot of people coming to you?

10:05 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Organizations are all different. There's the scale. You have the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia, while we're a very large not-for-profit so we have a brand that's very visible, and that creates a different value proposition for a corporation to come to us.

We wish there were more corporations that would come forward and want to be involved in real, impactful, on-the-ground conservation activities, and certainly we have more room to bring them in to do more work. We have a lot of opportunities, but I would always say that we would welcome a lot more.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

What other help could benefit the coming together of businesses and not-for-profits? How do you think we could get the message out to companies about the benefits for these partnerships, the benefits for social licences? How do you think we could format government action so that we could get governments or businesses to be more proactive?

10:05 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

As has been mentioned here, there are carrots and sticks in this area, and you need both. A foundation of legislation is the first step. You have to have a threshold. After that, you need to create these challenge grants and fund resources like that, so that when the government values an outcome, puts the science behind it, and makes a public commitment to it, you can then challenge landowners, the public and private sectors, provinces, and others to come forward and access those funds.

You have to realize that it takes money to enact, and get the job done. But, those instruments, those approaches, are quite successful.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

You mentioned the national conservation plan. You talked a little bit, too, about different parts of it being oversubscribed. I see that in many ways as being good news. What would be your opinion on a program like this then? Is it something the government should be a little bit more aggressive with, or what would you say?

10:05 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Oh, indeed. Let's put more resources into the wetland conservation fund and other pools there, because there's demand out here and partnerships to utilize it and to have real, meaningful, long-term, on-the-ground impact.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

In that, do you have numbers on economic impact?