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

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you both.

Mr. Fortune, carbon offsets are all the rage these days. Your work is really, in some measure, kind of leading work as far as carbon offsets go. Those were probably not recognized for a long time, but they are now. Do you get any credit for the carbon offsets that you achieve by buying a quarter section or a half section, or whatever, of land?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

No, we don't. There is no market for carbon at the present time. We certainly support and utilize that value proposition in a major way, talking to people about it. It's altruistic. It's a good thing to do, and the outcome is very valuable, as you point out. We use it as a value proposition.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Even in Quebec, where they have kind of a cap-and-trade system, there's no benefit or there are no certificates issued for the work you do?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

We have not been pursuing them.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

One way or another, about 80% to 85% of the economy is going to be pricing carbon probably by the end of the year, Ontario probably being the leader. It strikes me as anomalous that we would buy carbon offsets in other countries, yet not buy carbon offsets in this country. Have you engaged in any discussions about that with any government authorities?

June 16th, 2015 / 9:30 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

We have. Right across the country, at all levels, we talk about creating markets for ecological business services, and carbon is a very compelling opportunity in Canada. It certainly is. One of the first things we recommend is that we try to maintain the carbon that's in the ground now. We have an extensive northern landscape with a lot of carbon in it and conserving extensive areas there is very important. But when we get down into the working landscapes, if we can create markets then we can help enable conservation because there will be—as identified in the fisheries here—a market-based incentive for conservation.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Pricing externalities is a bit of an economist's fun game. It's not entirely unreasonable but still an interesting intellectual exercise. It also strikes me that the work that you do in retaining and slowing down runoff is a valuable good and service. I'm thinking particularly of Manitoba, for instance, where the lower part of Manitoba seems to flood on a pretty regular basis at extraordinary costs to the people particularly of Winnipeg. Again have you engaged in any conversations with anybody as to the value of those services that you provide?

9:30 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Yes. I think we visited every member of Parliament who would entertain us and we talked about the ecological benefits and values. Our research has identified $22 billion in the ecological business services associated with restored wetlands.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

That's $22 billion across the country?

9:30 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

We have some background on that, a nice paper. When you try to partition out flooding and wetland conservation, there is definitely a relationship there. When you get right down to it, if you restored wetland X and it was this large, a watershed the size of the watersheds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it takes an awful lot of work at that scale to have an impact, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing, not worth starting on.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

We're looking forward 20, 30, or 50 years, and as Mr. Butler said, water is the new fire. Let me switch to Mr. Butler here to follow up on that comment because I think it is interesting.

You had a presentation from the insurance industry on the cost of insurance and it does relate to our conversation with Mr. Fortune. Did they give you any insight, first, on the increase of premium by virtue of water events, and second, on the changing of insurance contract language? I've never noticed that insurance companies are overly enthusiastic about paying out. They do seem to have a great deal of enthusiasm about collecting my premium though. I'd be interested in any observations you have with respect to the insurance industry and its recognition of the impacts of climate change on the industry.

9:30 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

In preparation for this presentation we did ask for the PowerPoint that they provided us with, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get it in time. I hesitate to go to an area that I don't have a lot of depth in, other than being a premium holder. I do know that the increase in premiums particularly around flooding is perhaps more location based. Depending on where you're located, and certainly if you're located on a flood plain, then you might want to consider that as a factor.

I can't say much about language. I hope our perspective isn't influenced by the support we receive. It was my impression that the insurance industry is genuinely concerned about the vulnerability of our cities and our infrastructure to flooding, and what it means to them in terms of payouts and hence increased premiums. When they are funding work around stormwater or rain gardens or living shorelines they're doing it because they see these as potential models to reduce our vulnerability.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I've been given to understand that the folks in Calgary, particularly in the river flood plain, have had dramatic increases to their premiums and considerable restrictions on the ability to pay out on them.

If you can get that presentation, I'd be interested in it. Possibly the rest of the committee would be interested in it.

Thanks very much.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Choquette.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I represent the riding of Drummond, which is located in the Central Quebec region and has many wetland areas. Although the region is rich in wetlands, Quebec as a whole, and especially southern Quebec, is really losing ground year after year in terms of wetland conservation.

Is that also the case across Canada in general and in southern Canada in particular?

Mr. Fortune, would you like to answer?

9:35 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

There has been a significant and ongoing loss of wetlands across the developed landscapes in Canada. A lot of it happened when European settlement arrived, but it still is ongoing. The major causes are the expansion of urban areas and development, and the expansion of agriculture in some areas.

It's having an effect on wetlands and ecosystems, certainly.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

In other words, the situation is the same as in Quebec and in my region, Central Quebec, where we are losing many of our wetland areas. That is a major concern for my region, which is rural, although it has a city at its centre

You talked about all the environmental benefits associated with wetlands. You are working very hard to raise money from the private sector, and you are doing an excellent job. As we know, your organization is exemplary, but it does not seem to be enough, despite all the efforts you are making when it comes to getting the private sector involved on a voluntary basis.

Ms. Leslie asked you what more could be done in terms of investment or legislation to conserve the wetlands, which, despite your significant efforts, continue to disappear.

9:35 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

Let's use your landscape in Quebec as an example. The continued loss of wetlands, with its impact on your community and your area, is largely legislated and regulated provincially. We are working extensively with the provincial governments across the country to create the value propositions and help governments develop strong legislation. That legislation is aimed at protecting the base of wetlands that exist.

We realize that there is progress, that there are developments, that things have to happen. We've built the country, and I expect we want the economy to continue to grow. In cases where wetland losses are unavoidable, we highly recommend and we endorse that mitigation be undertaken to offset that. The intent is that there would be no net loss of wetlands on these systems. We're working very hard provincially right across the country to try to bring in that type of legislation.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

What could the federal government do to support you?

9:35 a.m.

Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

James Fortune

As I mentioned, in 1991 the federal government established its wetlands policy. The policy highlights the need to protect, conserve, and restore wetland on federal lands and in federal projects. Our recommendation is that we continue to apply that policy: that where there are federal lands, development is going on, and it affects wetlands, mitigation and compensation be enacted.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Butler, one of the things you talked about was the impact of climate change on insurance. You also talked about energy efficiency. Some of your work focuses on energy and the built environment. In the past, the federal program called ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes enabled people to make an effort in energy efficiency.

Are you familiar with that program? Did you or the people you are helping use it?

9:40 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

I'm generally aware of it.

We didn't have a direct engagement with it, but I know that it no longer exists, and it's a loss.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Very well. You did not really use the program, but you know what it was all about. It provided Canadian families with support in their fight against climate change.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Do you have another question? Your time is up.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.