Evidence of meeting #100 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was done.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julie Gelfand  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General
Kimberley Leach  Principal, Sustainable Development Strategies, Audits and Studies, Office of the Auditor General

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I'd like to go very quickly, because I have a third question to ask, around the participation of Quebec. I've read the footnotes. I appreciate the rationale underpinning their non-participation in this particular opportunity, but are you optimistic that there will be future opportunities for collaboration with Quebec and that there is an openness on the part of the Quebec auditor general and the commissioner to participate?

12:05 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

Really, you need to ask the Auditor General of Quebec about that. It's very difficult for me to answer that question.

What I can say is that they participated. As a partner they were doing all the background work with us to figure out what the common questions were and how we were going to do this. We talked about their cap-and-trade program. They contributed that to the project.

It seemed very clear that in this case, doing an audit on climate was not good timing for them, but as to the question whether they're open to do other work, really, you need to ask them.

March 27th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Okay.

In terms of future opportunities for the commissioner's office to engage in that auditing function at an international level, it strikes me that there is an entire international community of auditors, or environmental commissioners, if you will—I'm sure they all have different names in different countries. Many, I presume, are working on issues related to climate change. Can you describe for me the nature of the collaboration that is ongoing and say whether or not there are opportunities for further engagement of yourselves, as our Canadian institution, but also of your colleagues internationally to work, in the context of the conference of the parties, in these international settings in which climate is being considered?

12:05 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

There's one thing you might be very interested in.

First of all, let me tell you that Canada's commissioner of the environment and sustainable development is the only such commissioner located in the office of an Auditor General—Canada and Quebec. There are other commissioners of environment and sustainable development but they are separate agents of parliaments, or they're called ombudsmen for future generations or ombudsmen for children, etc.

Auditors general, however, are collaborating and you'll hear more about this in April when I table my report on sustainable development goals. The auditors general around the world are collaborating on looking at the SDGs and how well governments are prepared to implement them. They're going to be starting to look around the world at auditing specific SDG targets. They're also going to look at their role in SDG-16 to prevent corruption. Auditors general play a big role in that. We're looking at the SDGs on a global level and our role in them.

Finally, is our engagement and the work of the parties in conference. Right now, we see that as government work. We don't see a role for us right now, but we could always change that, I guess. That would be up to Parliament.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

Mr. Godin, you're next.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to come back to the subject of Quebec's participation. In your report, you spoke of 12 provinces and territories, but you have not given any data about Quebec. You said that Quebec did contribute, albeit partially. We therefore do not have the full picture regarding that province.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

What I can tell you, is that Quebec was a partner, but that the province did not do a new climate change assessment.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

The Office of the Auditor General of Quebec had just done one, and did not see fit to do another.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Since they had just done an assessment, couldn't they give you the data?

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

They could not give us data that was too outdated. It was their decision. All auditors general are independent officers of their parliaments, and the decision to participate lies with them.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I understand Quebec's decision and that the issue falls under Quebec's jurisdiction. I find it unfortunate, nonetheless, that a pan-Canadian report does not include Quebec. Quebec is on its own. Yet the data could have been complementary and helpful in painting an accurate picture of the situation.

Some doubts remain on the realistic nature of the data. I know that you did excellent work, because I am familiar with your expertise, and I know that you are conscientious. It is, however, unfortunate to see that you do not have data for Quebec, which represents 23% of the population, and perhaps a little more in terms of territory.

I would like you to explain something. Exhibit 6 says:

The federal government began to make progress under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Saying “began to make” is vague and broad. What does that mean exactly? My understanding is that it represents a start.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

As I said, we found that 5 departments out of 19 had done full climate change risk assessments. That is the issue here. There were 14 departments that did not complete one. They started the work, but they did not complete it.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I would like to go back to that. Earlier, I said that 63% of federal departments had not done the work, but in fact, it is 73% of them.

So 73% of federal departments did not do climate change risk assessments. That means that three quarters of all federal departments have not started.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

I did not say that they had not started. What I am saying is that they have not completed a full risk assessment.

When I tabled the audit, we found that five departments had done good work.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

The departments were Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and Health Canada. Five departments did very good work. Some departments only examined part of their mandates. The Department of National Defence looked at risks associated with the North, for example, whereas other departments did not assess the risks facing them at all.

The departments that did not do a full, comprehensive assessment of the risks pertaining to their mandates and to the delivery of programs and services to Canadians are part of the 14 departments out of 19.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

That equals 73%.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

It does not mean that those 14 departments did nothing.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

All right. I see.

12:10 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

They did some work, but it was not complete and comprehensive.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

In your presentation, you said that even Environment and Climate Change Canada had unfortunately not led by example. How can we explain the government's ongoing claims that it will now be a green government, that it will establish active practices to be more conscientious and pay more attention to the planet, and that it will adopt measures to achieve better results?

In real terms, the lead department sending out the signal to the other departments, in the federal government, and, I hope, to the provincial governments, is not leading by example. How do you explain that?

12:15 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

As I told you, in our audit, we found that 14 departments had not conducted a full assessment of the risks associated with their mandates, and Environment and Climate Change Canada was one of them.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Normally, Environment and Climate Change Canada should be among the five departments because it must lead by example. Was it close to being among the five departments or was it at the back of the pack?

12:15 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

Environment and Climate Change Canada developed the framework explaining how the departments should conduct their risk assessments. The department held meetings with the other departments, but it did not complete its own risk assessment.