Evidence of meeting #118 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 question.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stephen Lucas  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment
Daniel Watson  Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency
Ron Hallman  President, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Noon

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I would like to correct that. Alberta, for example, returns revenues. I think you've just made my point—that was a decision by the Government of British Columbia. It's up to governments to decide what they're going to do with revenues. Governments can decide. For example, the Government of Saskatchewan could decide that they are going to return it all back in a tax cut. They could reduce their provincial sales tax. They could give a credit. They could give it directly back. That is up to the provinces and territories to determine and that will determine what the cost is. I can only tell you what is happening now.

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Minister, the buck stops with your government. You are the Minister of Environment for Canada. You are the one imposing a carbon tax backstop of $50 per tonne, so it's your responsibility to ensure that those revenues, that tax, remains revenue neutral. You've simply fobbed this off on the provinces and are saying to them that they can do as they wish, and that you don't want to take personal responsibility for the carbon tax anymore. I believe what you're doing is abandoning your responsibility to Canadians to ensure that taxes you raise on greenhouse gas emissions are returned to those very taxpayers.

I have one last question. Minister, in 2022 the carbon tax will be $50. However, it's pretty clear from documents that have been prepared for you by your staff that there's a plan to increase the carbon tax from $50 to $100 to $200, because a $50-per-tonne carbon tax will not allow you to meet your Paris targets.

Can you brief this committee on the discussions you've had with your officials on increasing the carbon tax from the $50 that it will be in 2022?

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Unfortunately, the length of the question means you have a very short 10 seconds.

Noon

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I'm going to pass it on to my parliamentary secretary.

Noon

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

As the honourable members know, that's the product of a conversation between the federal government and the provinces that has not yet happened. It will happen as per the pan-Canadian framework. I would also say that the member is from British Columbia, as am I, and he has been quoted publicly in the press as saying—and has said to me—that he favours a carbon tax that is revenue neutral. So if the member has a problem with how the province is using the revenues, he should talk to Premier Horgan.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I really appreciate all of the good questions. We have now finished that round.

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

On a point of order, Madam Chair, the member for North Vancouver suggests that he quoted me as being supportive of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. I would like him to provide for this committee a transcript of that quote, because that's not what I said.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Fair enough. We'll leave that on the record. I don't think we need to do it now. If there's a disagreement, that information will be provided, and we'll appreciate it if you don't agree with what's being said.

Do you want to hear it now?

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Yes, if he's got it.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We're running out of time. In fact, we're out of time, but if he's got it, he can go ahead then.

Noon

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Member Fast said that British Columbia “did the right thing” on carbon pricing.

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Can you repeat that?

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You can repeat it, and then I have to end this section of the meeting.

Noon

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Member Fast was quoted in the press as saying that on carbon pricing, B.C. “did the right thing”.

Noon

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

That doesn't mean I support the carbon price.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We're into debate, and this portion of the meeting is over.

I want to thank the minister very much for appearing before us and answering our questions. Now the rest of the staff, the deputies and their assistants, are going to come up to the table, and we'll carry on our questioning.

Thank you so much.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We'll resume. I would like to introduce the additional members now at the table with us.

From Parks Canada Agency, we have Sylvain Michaud. Thank you very much for joining us. He's the Chief Financial Officer. From the Department of the Environment, we have Carol Najm, who's the Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services and Finance Branch. With the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, we have Christine Loth-Bown, Vice-President, Policy Development Sector. She has spent quite a bit of time with us in the last month.

I just want to let everybody know we're not doing statements; we're continuing with questions. We're starting a new round, so everybody has their six minutes. I'm going to carve out 10 minutes at the end, because we do have to move the estimates, and I need to go through that process. I also need to have a very quick conversation about Thursday's meeting, given the situation with when we're going to get the draft report. Let's save 10 minutes for that.

Mr. Amos, you have six minutes.

June 5th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our hard-working civil servants.

I very much appreciate how busy the government's agenda is on environmental and sustainable development law reform. More broadly writ, what that really means is that you and all your teams are working overtime to make sure that we manage to transform this country's laws.

I want to focus a bit on the conservation angle that I was pursuing with the minister. Obviously, we now have new funding to be injected into the park side, the wildlife service side, and into new programming around indigenous guardians. I imagine a suite of programs are being updated and new strategies are being developed. How specifically are we going about the process of encouraging federal-provincial collaboration in conservation?

My understanding is that the invitation has been made through federal, provincial, and territorial discussions for the provinces and territories to come forward and indicate what opportunities they'd like to pursue. I wonder, is there not a more proactive role for the federal government to play to identify opportunities where the federal government sees them and to pursue very proactive collaboration with the provinces? For example, I can point to western Quebec where there are conservation opportunities, but I think there's a leadership role for the federal government to play.

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Perhaps I can start and then turn to my colleague Daniel to go further.

The Government of Canada has been working with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders over the course of the past 18 months to almost two years on a process called “Pathway to Canada Target 1”, the terrestrial target under the Convention on Biological Diversity of conserving or protecting 17% of our landmass by 2020. Minister McKenna and Minister Phillips of Alberta launched that process in December 2016, and in February 2017 met with provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife conservation and biodiversity to engage in that broader work. There was work by an external panel, the national advisory panel, that provided advice as well, and as the minister mentioned, the indigenous circle of experts in regard in particular to indigenous protected and conserved areas.

That work has supported provinces and territories, as well as indigenous groups and others, looking at opportunities across the country including, on our side, national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries. Daniel can speak to national parks in a second.

Given the investment in the budget of $1.3 billion in conservation in particular in February 2018, the government's commitment to establish a nature fund of $1 billion, of which the government would invest $500 million, creates a platform for the government to work with partners, including provinces and territories, industry, philanthropic foundations, and indigenous groups to establish those areas in the spirit of partnership.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I'd like to push this a bit further because I'd like to know specifically the state of the conversation with the Government of Quebec around a joint conservation agenda. Is there a dialogue around specific areas of Quebec that might be of interest to that province? Has there been feedback from them? I doubt it's on the parks side, but maybe it is. Everyone who's followed conservation in Quebec has known that for many years, with the exception of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, a lot hasn't been achieved. I think this is the moment when we have to get these two governments working together.

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

I'll comment, and then I'll turn to my colleague Daniel.

All provinces and territories are engaged in the conversation Daniel and I co-chaired with our colleague from Alberta, with deputy ministers, just last week. The Government of Quebec invested in the recent budget in conservation and protected areas. Discussions are under way at the officials' level, and I would point out recently in Alberta a significant commitment was made for protected areas in the Birch River area of the boreal forest, which involved work through nature conservancies and the Government of Alberta as well.

12:10 p.m.

Daniel Watson Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency

I'd add that obviously if you're going to get the types of outcomes we want in protecting species at risk and others, the interconnectivity is critical. Of the investments that are available here, the science component will be critical. It will allow us to work better with all jurisdictions.

I think one of the other pieces that has been a big plus is not only are we working with provinces and territories but also municipalities and indigenous governments. I think it brings together a more coherent program than we've been able to see before, given all the different players that are being brought to the same table.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Very quickly, what is the status of the development of the indigenous guardians program? What successes have been achieved? My understanding is that things aren't moving as quickly as some proponents would like. Could you please update us on that?

12:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency

Daniel Watson

These are obviously excellent programs. There's a long history with similar things the minister spoke to earlier. We do expect to see people on the ground this year in a number of communities as a result of those investments. We expect those to have a particularly strong impact on indigenous youth, Inuit and Métis in some parts of the country and first nations in others. Again, we expect to see people on the ground in very short order this season.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

My last question is.... I've run out of time.