Evidence of meeting #160 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 fire.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kate Lindsay  Vice-President, Sustainability and Environmental Partnerships, Forest Products Association of Canada
Bradley McNevin  Chief Administrative Officer, Quinte Conservation
Rob Keen  Chief Executive Officer, Forests Ontario
Quincy Emmons  President, FireRein Inc.
Richard Moreau  Director, Emergency Management Solutions, Calian Group Ltd.
Adrienne Ethier  Senior Scientist, Emergency Preparedness, Calian Group Ltd.
Craig Stewart  Vice-President, Federal Affairs, Insurance Bureau of Canada
William Stewart  Board Chair, FireRein Inc.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you.

Thank you for being here today.

My rural riding is in southeastern British Columbia. I have over a dozen lumber mills in my area.

Ms. Lindsay, I have some questions about the industry and planning for climate change. There's a lot of concern in my riding about logging and watersheds and potential landslides. There have been some—fortunately not a lot. I'm wondering if the industry is working towards new standards to meet the challenges of climate change, including heavier rainfalls, etc.? For example, have you adjusted standards around steep-slope logging and other potential landslide issues?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Environmental Partnerships, Forest Products Association of Canada

Kate Lindsay

That's great. Thank you. It's a good question.

The industry has been concerned with it for some time. I worked in the industry about 15 years ago, and a slope stability expert was required on staff to do the engineering layout.

In the face of climate change it needs to be further considered, in particular in the community I'm from—I'm from the west coast of Canada— because we are seeing precipitation events, what we call flash-year systems, that occur less often but with more precipitation. Can those systems withstand water inundation? Looking at how you design the culvert sizes, your roads, the layout of your block, etc., is extremely important.

We have expertise through Forest Products Innovations, FPI, a group across Canada that is looking at the engineering innovation side and at adaptation moving forward.

I encourage companies and regions to do baseline studies. I think the point raised by my colleague here is to allow allowing some of those systems to use their natural flood plains and understanding what those are. Having some of those baseline assessments will help determine whether that was naturally occurring, either because of climate change or because of certain developments in the watershed. Having a clear sense of why those...if you have runoff or sediment or washouts, things like that.

We're now finding, and are involved in some research at the University of Waterloo and Trent and others on, post-catastrophic fire. Those watersheds are not.... There are issues for clean drinking water. Is there an opportunity for us to understand that dynamic system naturally, and then how we can conduct forest management so that we mitigate the risk of catastrophic fire and then flooding.

I think it's a good point. I think a lot of work is being done. I'd be happy to follow up with specific changes that may have happened recently.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

It would be nice at some point to see a climate change strategy or plan from the forestry industry in general on what might need to be done differently to accommodate climate change moving forward.

Related to that, when a fire happens currently in an annual allowable cut, what happens to the AAC for that particular area and who's responsible for planting the trees in a fire-killed area in the end: industry or government?

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Environmental Partnerships, Forest Products Association of Canada

Kate Lindsay

It's a good question

My understanding is that if it's a certain size, it's the Crown's obligation, so the province is required to re-establish those—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I understand that we're getting a little behind in our reforestation, partly due to the amount of fire we're seeing.

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Environmental Partnerships, Forest Products Association of Canada

Kate Lindsay

Absolutely.

The B.C. government has created the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. I know that forest companies, communities and the province are working through that society to re-establish areas post-fire, post-beetle, similar to what Rob was mentioning, to get some of those areas reforested much faster and back on that trajectory.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

I might come back to that if I get another round.

Mr. McNevin, you talked about the importance of restoring natural water cycles. I absolutely agree with you—I was a mayor, and also with the B.C. Ministry of Environment. How much co-operation are you getting from municipalities with that concept?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Administrative Officer, Quinte Conservation

Bradley McNevin

Locally our partnerships with our municipalities are very good. We have some water, rivers and watercourses that routinely flood. We're working on mitigation measures to address those specific areas, but there is a lot of work to be done for some of the smaller rivers and watercourses that don't have flood plain mapping or have inaccurate mapping. I think getting municipalities to help address those concerns is going to be vitally important going forward.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

It's going to be a lot of work for municipalities right across Canada.

4:20 p.m.

Chief Administrative Officer, Quinte Conservation

Bradley McNevin

Absolutely.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Keen, just quickly, is there any federal funding currently for trees?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Forests Ontario

Rob Keen

Not currently, no.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

No? Do you think there should be?

4:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Forests Ontario

Rob Keen

Absolutely. The more partners contributing to getting more trees in the ground, the better.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

That takes you to the end of your minute.

The next members we're going to are Mr. Fisher and Mr. Amos, who are splitting their time. I'm going to give them, at the end of two minutes, the card and at the end of the first three minutes the red card and then it can go to the next person.

Mr. Fisher, pay attention.

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

Over to you.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thanks, folks.

I'll go with Ms. Lindsay if I could. We know that Canada's forests can be altered by climate change, just as certain forestry practices can alter a forest's ability to mitigate climate change. Now in Nova Scotia we have very little Crown land, as most of it is privately owned. That puts a lot of responsibility on woodlot owners and the governments that regulate them to practise good forestry management.

I recognize there are many woodlot owners who positively and sustainably manage their land, but I'm interested in whether you would work with individual woodlot owners to teach these good practices that will allow our forests to serve as a potential means towards climate mitigation.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Sustainability and Environmental Partnerships, Forest Products Association of Canada

Kate Lindsay

FPAC largely represents Crown-managed forests companies in Canada. We do work with some of the woodlot associations as well. We are working on mainstreaming some of these mitigation adaptation practices. From my perspective, in the regulatory context having forest management planning acts in provinces speak to mitigation adaptation opportunities is positive. But the other area is forest certification. Even woodlot owners or managers on private land subscribe to forest certification standards and there are different standards based on the size of the area you manage. We've been working with a couple of those standards to advance some of the mitigation adaptation components into those indicators. I think that's a way to have forest managers more aware of the opportunities before them and then to have an auditing system to verify if, in fact, they are implementing those strategies.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Okay. Thank you.

Now we go over to Mr. Amos.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John Aldag

You have a minute left.

June 3rd, 2019 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Darren.

Thank you to our witnesses. It's really fabulous to have you here.

I want to jump in on what appears to me to be two levels of government going in totally different directions when it comes to increasing forest cover and increasing wetlands, etc.

On the one hand, you have our government, which has invested historic sums, $1.3 billion over five years, in protected areas and protected spaces and all different forms of terrestrial and marine areas. At the same time, our government has also for the first time opened to provincial governments, through the bilateral infrastructure deals signed with each province, natural infrastructure as a category of available federal financing. So provincial governments that choose to begin open programs that enable natural infrastructure can receive federal financing for that. It's up to the provinces.

I don't believe Ontario has gone in this direction. I'd ask for your correction if I'm not on point. But on the other hand, we have an Ontario government, provincially, that is pulling out of the business of planting trees.

I'm seeing two different directions here and I wonder if you could comment on the importance of both the federal government investing massively in conservation and in natural infrastructure, and also a tag team effort and the fact that there's a real challenge when you have a provincial government going in the opposite direction.

Maybe we could start with Mr. Keen.

4:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Forests Ontario

Rob Keen

Sure.

Yes, certainly, I think the notion is that it can't be borne by just one level of government. There need to be multiple partners at the table to work towards this common direction, ensuring the natural infrastructure that we are all, I believe, trying to achieve.

Certainly, with the direction of the current provincial government, that could be questionable just because they have cancelled the 50-million tree program. They're cancelling some other supporting mechanisms that speak to nature, the various endangered species, things like this that seem to be under question.

As I noted earlier, I do think that we can all get our heads wrapped around the fact that we have to have a healthy environment in order to drive a healthy society and a healthy economy, and not the other way around. We can't be all focused on the economy and worry about the environment later. That has tended to be the way things have been for a long time. Hopefully, now we can start to recognize that no, we have to start with that healthy environment first.

Again, governments need to be part of this. I see corporations being part of this too through corporate social responsibility, and certainly the public, and individuals themselves, can contribute to all of us working together to ensure that we have that healthy environment for the future.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

Mr. McNevin, with the brief time that is left, would you mind commenting on that.

4:25 p.m.

Chief Administrative Officer, Quinte Conservation

Bradley McNevin

I agree that all levels of government...we need support from a conservation authority perspective. The provincial government is looking at reviewing the Conservation Authorities Act and the way it's administered. It's vitally important for conservation authorities that the Conservation Authorities Act is represented to allow us to properly review development proposals and implement measures within the act for the betterment of our environments and to protect people from the effects of flooding and disasters.