Evidence of meeting #63 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 communities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Louise Grondin  Senior Vice-President, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited
Arlene Strom  Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

9:35 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

Louise Grondin

That's the threshold for having to make a declaration; the other mines emit less than 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. So we are not subject to the cap or to the greenhouse gas emissions trading system. That does not mean we are not making efforts to reduce energy consumption, as all our mines, under the Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, must have a program for reducing energy consumption. First, we have to measure and then—

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Sorry to interrupt, Ms. Grondin, but we have very little time. That is why I am rushing you a bit.

If I understand correctly, you are currently not subject to the carbon market, but what do you think about that idea in general? I see that you are making tremendous efforts. You have reduced your intensity by 28% in one year. That was last year, so from 2013 to 2014. You are making efforts. How interested is your company in participating in the carbon market? Why would that be a good idea for you?

9:35 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

Louise Grondin

I have not really looked into the issues. However, I think there should be more incentives for reducing than for trading. I would not want to pay someone to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. So the first step is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Once we have reached a plateau, we may consider contributing to a carbon exchange.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

The carbon market is a system for capping emissions. A reduction in emissions is requested each year. Afterwards, if someone is not able to achieve the reduction objectives, they can exchange or purchase credits. I think that could benefit you. Although the intensity of GHG emissions has greatly diminished, it is still difficult to control the emissions. Your company continues to grow, and GHG emissions in the mines are increasing in spite of of everything. Therefore, I think it is important to make all the necessary efforts, as you mentioned, to combat this GHG scourge.

I would like to say something to Ms. Strom.

In the analysis before us, we see that you have concluded an agreement with the Pembina Institute. I saw that the institute produced a report in 2010, and the report talked about some problems related to water retention ponds, for instance. I suppose it is based on—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Come to your question. You're running out of time.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Okay.

I suppose you concluded the agreement with the institute in order to improve that situation.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

We have actually been partnering with the Pembina Institute for many years, since well before 2010. I would say that our partnership has been a learning experience for both sides. They have helped us to understand the views of our stakeholders and to understand and work through solutions. We have worked with them on tailings issues, on water issues, and on many issues over the years. Although we don't always agree, we find it a very constructive relationship.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you.

Ms. Ambler, go ahead, please, for five minutes.

June 18th, 2015 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both of our guests today for giving us such interesting information to discuss this morning.

I wanted to thank you, Ms. Strom, for the work that Suncor does in engaging stakeholders in the community. In particular, I wanted to highlight, if you'll allow me, some of the community initiatives undertaken in my own local area of Mississauga. You mentioned earlier that the Suncor lubricants facility is located there. Actually, that's in my riding, near the waterfront. In fact, the plant shares land with Mississauga Bradley House Museum. It's my understanding that this unique relationship has led to a partnership with the Friends of the Museums of Mississauga. Suncor has made an investment in the community with about 1,000 high-risk students who study at the museum's site with a curriculum-based program that allows them to learn about daily life in the 1800s.

The way I see it, this kind of community engagement is important to that triple-e bottom line that's so often talked about, so I wanted to thank you for that.

I also wanted to know if you have any knowledge of the partnership with the Riverwood Conservancy, also in Mississauga. It's a large urban park in Mississauga. Suncor partners with Riverwood on a secondary school field science program called, Exploration Naturally. It's okay if you don't know about it, but if you do, I was hoping you could tell us a bit about it.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

Unfortunately, I do not have the details of that specific program. I'm aware that we have supported them, but unfortunately I can't give you the details.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Don't worry. I'm sure I could look it up. I do like the focus on youth and not only high-risk youth but also on science and getting young people involved in the science of the environment. I appreciate that and thank you for it.

I'm wondering also who your corporate partners are, and do you regularly meet with them and/or the community partners with regard to environmental sustainability? If so, what are the products or results of these meetings, these partnerships?

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

I'm going to give you an example of two specific engagements that we've had that involve many of our community partners.

In the fall of 2013, we invited many of our community partners together to come to Calgary. Actually, we invited them during the Calgary flood and we had to adjust our timing a bit. In any event, we had this gathering of community partners and academics. It included environmentalists and first nations organizations, with many of our partners brought together to focus on several areas. One was our energy future, which obviously involves environmental issues, but also aboriginal youth and building leadership capacity.

Together, what we found is that by bringing these folks together they made connections. They were able to work together with new partnerships, so we were facilitating this new network. Then we went away and worked in new groups and new networks to solve these problems together.

In 2014, we came together again and were a bit more focused, but we also invited aboriginal youth to come to express directly to us some of their concerns. One of the wonderful epiphanies that we had at that session was this wonderful young aboriginal woman who spoke to us and said, “You come to us and say, 'How can we help you?'; you should also be coming to us and saying, 'What can we do for you?'” It was about that reciprocal arrangement and how we can work together. We continue to work with the folks in those networks and it's been very powerful.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you.

Thank you, Ms. Ambler.

Now we'll go to Ms. Leslie, please, for five minutes.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, to both of our witnesses, for being here today.

Ms. Strom, I'd like to start with you and to talk to you about the use of a shadow carbon price. I know that Suncor is familiar with this. Different companies in the Canadian energy sector are using a shadow carbon price, and some companies use it to drive their performance or to create opportunities like technological innovation or increasing their market access. Other companies, I know, use it to just straight-up evaluate GHGs coming from particular projects. But it seems to me that the use of this shadow carbon price in the Canadian energy market lays a bit of the groundwork for the fact that companies are already thinking about a price on carbon, that a price on carbon wouldn't actually be that disruptive.

I know that Suncor is familiar with the shadow carbon price and uses it. I'd love to hear from you a bit about that, but I guess my question for you is this. If a company like yours is already engaged in a shadow carbon price, wouldn't there be a benefit in levelling the playing field and ensuring that all companies have certainty and build in that same price?

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

We do use a shadow carbon price to evaluate risk over the long term, so as we look at our plans for growth and new projects and want to ensure that we're evaluating all of the risks. We stress test them by using a shadow carbon price. In our public disclosure, you will see that we use about $60 or $65 as a shadow price.

However, that doesn't mean that we're proponents of a $60 price. It's about stress testing and risk testing our projects.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Understood.

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

We do believe that certainty is a very important component, as you point out. That level playing field is certainly the best-case scenario, in which we're addressing global frameworks and global prices so that we have that certainty. Doing that for North America would also be a natural step to pursue.

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thanks very much. My second question is for Madame Grondin.

It seems to me, listening to your testimony and doing a little bit of research before coming here today, that AEM is really making an effort to be responsible in its operations when it comes to the environment.

Back to this idea of levelling the playing field, do you agree that a sound and consistent and well-funded regulatory structure would help keep out some bad actors? The mining sector has a bit of a cowboy reputation, rightly or wrongly. I certainly wouldn't include your company in that reputation.

We need some sort of consistent policy across the board. In that vein, would you support a national fund to ensure site remediation and cleanup that all operations would pay into? Again, it's this idea of levelling the playing field.

9:50 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

Louise Grondin

In terms of regulations, you might be surprised to learn that most of the workload, I would say 90%, of CEAA, the federal environmental assessment agency, is for mining projects. We're subject to a lot of scrutiny.

We've just received our project certificate for one of our projects in Nunavut. This took five years of study and probably $15 million in consultant work and baseline studies. Really, where the tire hits the road, so to speak, is when you go in front of the public for the public hearings.

Nowadays, I really believe that if you're subjected to an environmental assessment and you're not gaining social acceptability, whether your project makes money or not, it will not go through. That is my belief. I really think that's where the effort—

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you.

Mr. Toet, go ahead, please.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Ms. Strom, I want to start with you. I want to get back a little bit to the context of our study, and that is the partnering with not-for-profits and other organizations for local environmental initiatives.

You talked about your founding membership of the Boreal Leadership Council. I was hoping you could expand a little on the work of this foundation, what it has accomplished, and what it's looking to accomplish over the coming years.

9:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

First of all, I'll just give you a bit of background. The first nations that are involved are nations from Treaty 8, Kaska Nation, Poplar River, Dehcho Nation, Innu Nation, and several companies as well.

There are several initiatives. I'll give a few examples that we've worked on over the years. We've had a national workshop to understand western science and traditional knowledge approaches to cariboo. These are just examples of what we've done over the last 10 years. We worked with 21 first nations to compile traditional knowledge, and this was submitted to Environment Canada to inform various plans around cariboo recovery.

Of course, the Alberta Conservation Association worked to conserve the boreal forest, which is something we've been very proud of and have worked at since 2003.

Does that answer your question?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Yes, that's good.

I also wanted to talk a little about your business incubator, and the 72 businesses that you had at a recent celebration. I'd like to know a little more about what kind of work you are doing with these, I'm assuming, entrepreneurs, and in what ways you are supporting them. Is it kind of a one-off, or are you actually sticking with them and walking through the process with them?

Can you give us a little better idea of what's happening with your business incubator program?

9:55 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Communications, Suncor Energy Inc.

Arlene Strom

We've done a couple of business incubator programs. The one with Tsuu T'ina is the one that is active. We've also had one that we did with Fort McKay. The business incubator programs are not, I think, generally to be in place forever, so our goal is to be a bit like scaffolding so that we can come in and help to build capacity, develop the skills and knowledge, and give support around business processes so that folks with creativity, skills, passion, and a business plan can get going.

The plan is not to be there forever, but to be like the scaffolding so that we can come in and give them that, and then move away from it.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

What kinds of things do you deliver? What is the scaffolding in your view? Are you working with them on financials? Are you working with them on complete business plans? What sorts of things are you doing to support them in this incubator?