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

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call to order the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

We have with us today, from Ducks Unlimited Canada, Mr. James Fortune, chief operating officer. I was concerned for a bit. Even though it's Ducks Unlimited, and it's a very rainy day out there—perfect for ducks—I thought he wouldn't be able to arrive today because of the very wet weather. Appearing by video conference from Halifax, Nova Scotia, from the Ecology Action Centre, is Mr. Mark Butler, policy director. He will be giving his testimony by video conference. We welcome both of our witnesses today.

We'll begin with James Fortune, from Ducks Unlimited, for an opening 10-minute statement. Then we'll proceed to the video with Mr. Mark Butler. Following that, we'll have questions from committee members.

Mr. Fortune, please proceed.

8:50 a.m.

James Fortune Chief Operating Officer, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Thank you very much.

Good morning, everybody. Wet weather is always welcome when you're in the wetland conservation business.

Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. I'm Jamie Fortune. I'm the chief operating officer for Ducks Unlimited Canada and the executive responsible for our corporate and grassroots fundraising programs. I'm very pleased to speak to you today about our organization's 77-year legacy of meaningful and effective private sector partnerships in support of local wetland habitat conservation across Canada. We're a registered Canadian charity, and we operate in partnership with private businesses and all levels of government in Canada.

Ducks Unlimited was founded by a group of forward-thinking and conservation-minded business leaders who took action when North America's wetland populations and waterfowl populations were on the brink of collapse at the height of the Great Depression and the prairie dust bowl. Those were very trying times for our economy, our industry, our governments, and our wildlife. However, it was the vision of those business leaders that helped to advance wetlands and waterfowl conservation across the continent.

My remarks today will focus on four key areas that illustrate how private sector leadership has been the driving force behind our work since then. These four areas are: private land partnerships; voluntary offsetting by industry; our partnerships with industry; and lastly, sponsorships and affinity relationships.

The first area is partnerships with private landowners. First and foremost, private land partnerships are at the very heart of our mission. Since 1938 we've been working with farmers, ranchers, rural property owners, private businesses, and governments at all levels to ensure that those who are interested in wetland conservation can get the science-based information, conservation advice, technical services, and financial support they need. Today, we're engaged with 18,000 private landowner partners across the country, coast to coast to coast.

A recent and local example I'd like to share with you is that of Susan Prior, who lives just west of the city here, near Carp, Ontario. A few months ago, Ms. Prior signed a long-term agreement with Ducks Unlimited to rehabilitate drained wetlands on her historic farm property near Carp. That farm was settled in the very early 1800s. It's just 30 minutes west of Parliament Hill. In this partnership, thanks in part to support from the federal government's national wetland conservation fund, Ms. Prior retains full ownership of her land, and we're able to restore critical habitat for the benefit of fish and wildlife and also for species at risk. In the case of Ms. Prior, we used sound science when we worked with her to secure this habitat. Also, while we restore habitat, we're employing public sector and private sector funds to achieve her goals alongside ours and to achieve our mission and thus generate ecological benefits for Canadians over the long term.

Next is voluntary offsetting by industry. Canada's corporate leaders are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impacts and to transition towards more sustainable ways of doing business. Where our interests converge, Ducks Unlimited is proud to engage the private sector in these efforts through our voluntary offsetting initiatives. Loosely defined, a voluntary offset is a combination of measures or investments made by organizations to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts. This is all done outside a legislative regulatory framework that otherwise would force them to do so. Other elements of voluntary offsets include prepayment or banking of offsetting initiatives against future commercial undertakings. Many organizations and companies feature these activities as part of their corporate social responsibility programming. A number of leading companies involved in the development of the Alberta oil sands have land reclamation strategies in place to offset the impacts of their mining and processing activities. While these are long term and the efforts to fully rehabilitate the landscape are ongoing, in order to minimize their overall impacts right now, these companies purchase conservation offsets aimed at maintaining the ecological integrity of lands near their operations.

I'll share an example with you. This one is in southern Alberta, where Shell Canada contributed $3 million towards the securement of our Buffalo Hills conservation ranch. It is located just outside Calgary. It includes 4,130 acres of pristine native grasslands and close to an additional 1,800 acres of hay lands that are supporting breeding, migrating, and wintering waterfowl and 159 species of birds, as well as mammals and amphibians. The Buffalo Hills ranch is the largest contiguous land acquisition that our organization has made, and it was enabled by a voluntary offset payment.

The third area is industry partnerships. One of the most important ways we're working to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada's wetlands is through environmental education programs. These programs are aimed at students from kindergarten to high school. They provide more than 36,000 participants across Canada with teaching resources for their classroom and real-life, hands-on experiences with local wetland ecosystems in their communities. Our private sector partners have been integral to the success of these programs. These partners are sponsors, meaning that they provide funds for specific initiatives and activities and are associated with our brand.

Last year Giant Tiger Stores and the North West Company joined together for a five-year commitment to us in support of our Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, a 9,000-acre, world-class, award-winning wetland management area close to Winnipeg. It's 30 kilometres of trails through marshes, croplands, and tall grass prairie. It provides outstanding opportunities for education as well as tourism.

In another example, Talisman Energy began partnering with us on Project Webfoot, our education program in Alberta, in 2004. This program specifically links to grades 4 to 6 curricula across Canada, giving students the opportunity to apply classroom learning and connect with nature through field trips. That outdoor connection is very, very important. Our relationship with Talisman has been ongoing since 2004. In 2011 they became our first national education sponsor, supporting us at the national level. They continue to support Project Webfoot. They've also helped us establish two new wetland centres of excellence, in Quebec and British Columbia.

These companies achieve their corporate goals and we have financial support. It's a win-win situation.

The last area is affinity relationships. In these affinity relationships we license our brand to a corporation. For example, a corporate affinity credit card through MBNA Canada has really helped us drive a lot of conservation impact. This is a major credit card issuer, and I believe we were the first affinity partner they had when they came to Canada years ago. They're now owned by TD Bank. We receive an annual financial payment from MBNA based on the usage of these affinity cards. They've also sponsored our programs. They support conservation fellowships, the grant program that funds graduate research in waterfowl and wetland biology.

The success of these relationships is a real tribute to the commitment of our supporters across the country, who choose to get these products, use them every day, and by doing so support conservation delivery through their day-to-day activities.

These mechanisms and partnerships are just a few examples of how Ducks Unlimited Canada is working with the private sector to deliver results. These relationships are win-win in that both Ducks Unlimited and our partners achieve specific outcomes. By the very nature of the work we do, there are also significant benefits to the environment, to Canadians, and to society.

The work that's already going on through these partnerships is significant. We also believe there are concrete steps the federal government can take right now to encourage new productive relationships.

In particular, the government can expand funding for core existing programs that currently encourage private sector investment. These are matching programs. These include, in particular, the national wetland conservation fund, the natural areas conservation program, the joint ventures of the North American waterfowl management plan, and the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program.

Second, we can legislate and develop national guidelines and best practices for habitat-based offsetting and implement these on federal lands and all federally funded infrastructure projects as per the 1991 federal policy on wetland conservation. The consistent application of firm policy is beneficial to industry and Canadians. Simply put, all governments need to make it easier to conserve and restore habitat than to destroy it.

Thank you for your time this morning and for your interest in this important subject. I look forward to answering any questions you may have later.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Fortune.

We'll move now to Mr. Mark Butler, policy director with Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Welcome.

8:55 a.m.

Mark Butler Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Bonjour. Chair, Vice-Chairs, and members, thank you very much for this opportunity.

The Ecology Action Centre is not as big or as old as Ducks Unlimited; however, we're at respectable middle age. We started in 1971. We have 4,000 members. We're based in Nova Scotia, but we work across Canada. This morning I'd like to provide you with some examples of how the Ecology Action Centre works with the private sector, followed by some observations in that regard.

I do have a warning. I read this out to my son this morning and he said, “Good, but dull.”

8:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:55 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

The EAC began in 1971. One of our first projects was paper recycling. We bought a little cube van and picked up newspapers. Today, recycling is big business. The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries estimates that 34,000 people are directly employed in recycling. The moral of the story is that if you want tomorrow's business ideas, check out what environmental groups are doing today.

Another early project of ours, which continues today, is that of selling Christmas trees grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. This is both a fundraiser and an awareness raiser. Currently, we partner with Christmas tree grower Kevin Veinotte of Lunenburg County and sell approximately 450 trees each December.

In 2005, the Ecology Action Centre, along with other environmental groups, initiated the Colin Stewart Forest Forum. To quote from a provincial report from several years ago:

The Colin Stewart Forest Forum is a protected areas planning process initiated by leading...ENGOs...and the four largest forestry companies operating in Nova Scotia. It formed to resolve conflict among ENGOs and the forestry industry over the future of Nova Scotia’s remaining wilderness....

The industry was looking for more certainty around wood supply and the environmental groups for more certainty around land protection. It worked.

We also partner with the private sector to promote marine conservation and, in particular, better fishing practices. We are a member of SeaChoice, a Canada-wide program that helps businesses and consumers make choices to support the health of marine ecosystems. SeaChoice works closely with seafood suppliers, retailers, and restaurateurs across Canada to help them and consumers purchase sustainably caught seafood.

We also helped launch the Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery. You may have heard of community supported agriculture, or CSA. This is the same thing, but it's for fish, not vegetables. Off the Hook works to connect a co-operative of small-scale bottom-hook-and-line groundfish fishermen from the Bay of Fundy with consumers in Halifax.

Not surprisingly, the Ecology Action Centre is active on mitigating and adapting to the impact of a changing climate and a warming world. In this regard, we have partnered with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and individual insurance companies such as Intact Insurance.

The industry of course has extensive and detailed data on climate impact. To quote from an article in the Financial Post from November 2011:

“What is causing it [climate change] is not our area of expertise but we agree the climate is changing,” says Michael Tremblay, director of research with the Insurance Bureau, which says severe-storm-related water damage now comprises 44% of claims compared to just 22% in 1992.

The insurance industry has a saying: water is the new fire.

The private sector is often the funder of environmental work. The TD friends of the environment program and RBC's blue water project come to mind.

At the Ecology Action Centre, many of our supporters are small to mid-sized businesses. We have 10 companies that are sustainability allies, and they range from a real estate company to a pizzeria, to a landscaper, to a brewery. We are also a member of One Percent for the Planet.

There are other examples, which I have omitted in the interest of time. Following are a few observations, and again, they are by no means inclusive.

The first observation is that we are neither a cheerleader for nor a detractor of the private sector; perhaps “agnostic” is the right word. As described, we work closely with the private sector. Certain segments of the private sector are showing increased leadership on environmental matters. At the same time, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to address and remedy the actions of the private sector, actions that are harming or threatening the environment.

EAC's engagement and partnership with the private sector are increasing, likely due partly to a growth in the capacity and the maturity of our organization, but I think it's also a reflection of external independent factors, a few in particular.

First, the private sector is simply showing more leadership on environmental matters, both because it is good for business and because business people are people and they get that it is the right thing to do.

Second, the private sector is showing more leadership because government isn't. There is a vacuum, and the private sector, along with NGOs and individuals, is trying to fill it.

Third, progress is achieved through the private sector, government, and citizens working together. As a parent, I don't expect government to leave child safety to the discretion of the private sector, nor would I expect protection of the environment to be left up to the private sector alone. The growth of the renewable energy industry is a great example of how the government and the private sector can work together globally. The power of the markets, certain policies of the government, and the application of technology are a powerful combination.

Fourth and last, the debate is often framed in terms of a private remedy versus a state or public remedy. Increasingly we are seeing the integration of market and social goals in the form of social enterprises. A social enterprise is defined as a business created to further a social purpose in a financially sustainable manner.

Thank you. I look forward to taking any of your questions.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Butler. I'm not sure your son was accurate when he said it was dull.

We'll proceed to our first questioner, Mr. Woodworth, from the Conservative Party.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both of our witnesses.

Mr. Butler, having two sons who are now grown, I can only say that our children, because of their love and affection, are our fiercest critics, so don't be too concerned about that. They'll be straight shooters.

I have a couple of questions for you. I was interested in your comments about working with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Intact Insurance. Can you tell me what kind of environmental initiatives those two organizations are engaged in with you?

9:05 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

The main focus has been stormwater management. As I mentioned in my presentation, they have a phrase that I think is very apt, which is that water is the new fire. That's where they're seeing the most growth in their claims, from flooding, from construction of homes on flood plains, etc. We've been working with them on a number of projects around stormwater management, which is one way of mitigating the impact of flooding on homes.

We've also worked with them a little bit on something called “living shorelines” management. Instead of putting up hard buttresses against shoreline erosion, you use vegetation and more natural ways to control the impacts of rising sea levels or shoreline erosion.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

What is their contribution, for example, to that project, living shorelines management?

9:05 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

They've been a funder primarily, but they recently came to our organization and did a presentation on their concerns and some of the data they've been collecting. We've been learning from each other and identifying how to adapt and prepare for the growing impact of floods.

June 16th, 2015 / 9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Maybe you can help me to visualize the outcome. How many kilometres or how much shoreline have you been able to restore or enhance under the living shorelines management program?

9:05 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

I don't have the exact number in terms of kilometres. We've worked on the Northumberland Strait. We recently had a project here in Halifax on the Northwest Arm. I would say it's probably in the 10- to 20-kilometre range at most.

The purpose of it is not for us, along with funders, to do all this work around Nova Scotia or Atlantic Canada; it's just to show that there is a different approach to putting up cement walls, which in the end only deflect the energy of the ocean onto your neighbour's property.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

It's kind of a demonstration of what's possible. Is that what you mean?

9:05 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

That would be a good way of describing it.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Was there any provincial, federal, or municipal government funding involved in that particular project?

9:10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

For the most part, it was just a cooperation between the Ecology Action Centre and the private sector. I don't have all the funding sources in front of me. We definitely had support from federal and provincial scientists on practices, technology, methodology, etc.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Very good.

Can you tell me if your organization has any explicit policy, first of all, on searching for private sector partners—“seeking them out” might be a better way to put it—and second, on the rules of engagement with private sector partners?

9:10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

That's a good question. We do. Because we do some policy work, we really try to keep funding and policy separate. We try to avoid the conflict of interest, so although we may not take funding from a wind company or an oil company, we're very ready to partner with them in other ways. The example I gave of the forest industry is an example where we're willing to sit down and engage with them when we have a mutual purpose. Whilst we may not take funding from the forest industry, we're certainly willing to talk to them, engage with them, work with them where possible.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

On project-specific issues in other words....

9:10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

What about seeking out private sector partners for projects or otherwise? Do you have any proactive approach on that?

9:10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

We perhaps don't always practise this, but we try. If there is an issue, we try to open the channels of communication and dialogue explicitly. Definitely our work in the marine sector has been one of trying to work with fishermen, in this case, and using the markets to advance certain shared goals. Certain technologies are gentler on the environment, and we're trying to create a market incentive for those fishermen to continue fishing and other fishermen to switch to that technology.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

This might be too broad and too historical a question. You mentioned three specific projects: the Colin Stewart Forest Forum, SeaChoice, and Off the Hook. Were those all programs that originated with your organization, or did they originate with private sector people approaching your organization? If you can tell me, I'd appreciate hearing the history.

9:10 a.m.

Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre

Mark Butler

In all three cases, we reached out to the private sector—and I'm proud of that—and the response was positive. Increasingly we have businesses coming to us asking how we can collaborate. I had a landscaper walk in our door yesterday morning. We just wrapped up a large event with a large independent brewery here. Increasingly I'm finding it is happening both ways, but certainly businesses are approaching us about working together.