Evidence of meeting #3 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 parks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julie Gelfand  Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Dan McDougall  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment
Karen Dodds  Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment
Louise Métivier  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Department of the Environment
Mike Beale  Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment
Jane Pearse  Chief Administrative Officer, Parks Canada
Heather Smith  Vice-President, Operations , Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

11 a.m.


The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte) Liberal Deb Schulte

Welcome all to meeting three of our committee. I hope everybody's ready to roll. We have a very full agenda today.

I want to thank a large number of people who are coming forward in front of the committee to share their wisdom with us.

I'd like to start by welcoming the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, with Julie Gelfand, the commissioner; Andrew Ferguson, principal; and Kimberley Leach, principal.

I'd also like to welcome the Department of Environment and Climate Change Canada. There's quite a list. We have Mike Beale, who's the assistant deputy minister of the environmental stewardship branch; Karen Dodds, assistant deputy minister, science and technology branch; Dan McDougall, assistant deputy minister, strategic policy branch; Louise Métivier, assistant deputy minister and chief negotiator for climate change; John Moffet, director general, legislative and regulatory affairs; and Carol Najm, assistant deputy minister, finance branch.

From Parks Canada we have Jane Pearse, chief administrative officer. Welcome.

As well, from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, we have Heather Smith, vice-president of operations.

Thank you to all of you, and welcome to the committee.

Just so it's clear to all of us—because some of us are new to this process—we're going to start off by hearing from all the witnesses. There will be 10 minutes for the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, 20 minutes for the Department of Environment and Climate Change Canada, 10 minutes for Parks Canada, and then 10 minutes for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. We're going to hear from all of them and then we'll move to questions. Thank you.

Welcome, Julie Gelfand. Thank you. You have the floor.

11 a.m.

Julie Gelfand Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Thank you, Madam Chair.

We are very happy to appear before your committee this morning. It is very important to us that parliamentarians take an interest in our work.

With me today are two audit principals, Ms. Kimberley Leach and Mr. Andrew Ferguson.

With your permission, I would like to begin by providing a bit of historical context about the function of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The idea of having some form of environmental auditor general for Canada had its origins in 1987 with the landmark Brundtland Commission report that introduced the concept of sustainable development.

In 1989, when I was a young lass, I worked on a document called the Greenprint for Canada. Greenprint for Canada was signed by a whole bunch of environmental, aboriginal, and social justice groups in 1989, and it presented to Brian Mulroney a recommendation that we establish an environmental auditor general. I have come full circle, because I was working on the media relations for this document, and now it's me.

I just think it's a great story. I still have the Cerlox-bound document.

The idea of having an environmental auditor general was again discussed at the 1992 Rio Summit.

After much discussion and consideration by Parliament and others, the position of Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was created in 1995, and it was made part of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada by amendment to the Auditor General Act. The amendments to the act also created two new government processes, namely departmental sustainable development strategies and environmental petitions, which I will touch upon briefly.

Let me give you an overview of our mandate. The commissioner is appointed by the Auditor General and provides parliamentarians with objective, fact-based information and expert advice on the federal government's efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development. We carry out these responsibilities under two acts.

First, under the Auditor General Act, our office conducts performance audits and monitors departmental progress on whether activities designed to implement federal environment and sustainable development policies and programs are being implemented effectively and are delivering results.

When I joined the office I didn't know what a performance audit was. Performance audits are done by the Auditor General and by me, and I thought it would be great to try to describe what a performance audit is.

Essentially when the government sets a goal, the auditors come in to see whether or not the government is achieving the goal.

If the goal were to build a rocket and get to the moon, the auditor would ask how that rocket was going. Was it built? Yes, check. Has it gone to the moon yet? Yes-no.

Once you have decided what you want the government to do, our job is to check whether or not the government is doing what you have asked it to do.

Another example would be if the cabinet had asked departments and all ministers to consider the environment when they made any decision. When any proposal goes to a minister, the minister is supposed to consider the environment in that decision-making.

We look at all the decisions a minister has made and find out whether or not they have taken into consideration environmental issues when they made that decision. Whatever cabinet or the government decides it wants to do, we let you know whether or not it's being done.

We also manage the environmental petitions process that enables Canadians to obtain responses directly from federal ministers on specific environmental and sustainable development issues under federal jurisdiction.

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, our office reviews and comments on the federal government's Sustainable Development Strategy. We also monitor and report on the extent to which federal departments contribute to meeting the targets and goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

In addition to these responsibilities, we also help the Office of the Auditor General incorporate environmental issues, as appropriate, in all of its work for Parliament.

On behalf of the Auditor General, the commissioner reports to Parliament at least once a year. This year we will be reporting three times. Because of the election, we reported our fall results in January. We will report again in May and then again in October.

Before I close, I'd like to take a minute to talk about sustainable development and climate change. I believe these two issues are intertwined, and they are among the most pressing of our times. As such, my future work will be focusing on these issues.

In September 2015, Canada and 192 other countries committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to achieving the related 17 sustainable development goals.

In addition, prior to the UN Climate Change Conference which took place in Paris in December 2015, Canada indicated that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared to 2005 levels, and that it would do so by 2030. Since then, the government has indicated that it considers this target to be a minimum, and it has committed to work with all the provinces to develop a Canadian plan to tackle climate change.

This country's next federal sustainable development strategy is due in 2016. The full integration into this next strategy of the 2030 United Nations sustainable development goals—often called the global goals—and the Paris climate change commitments will be a clear indicator of Canada's commitment to sustainable development and response to climate change. I look forward to reporting to Parliament on the government's progress in achieving these all-important goals.

Madam Chair, I am always interested in hearing from parliamentarians about their interests and concerns, and as always, we are available to appear before your committee at any time. Your attention to our reports supports accountability. It allows you, as parliamentarians, to ask senior officials to appear before you to answer questions about our findings and explain how they intend to carry out your direction and our recommendations. For example, you could request that departments provide you with action plans to implement our recommendations.

In the years ahead, I look forward to continuing my work to provide you with the independent information that I hope you will find useful in exercising your oversight role.

Madam Chair, that concludes my opening remarks. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.


11:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much, Madam Gelfand.

We're just going to hold off on the questions until the end. I'm sure there will be many. I see people writing diligently, and I have a few myself, but we'll hold on that

Now we'll get to the department of the Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Go ahead, please, Mr. McDougall.

11:10 a.m.

Dan McDougall Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Thank you, Madam Chair. It's a pleasure to be here this morning on behalf of the department to provide a bit of an overview of who we are and what we do.

I'm going to focus most of my remarks on the climate change area, following from the comments from the commissioner as one of the more important areas that we're dealing with these days, but before I do that, could I just draw your attention to the handout we passed around? It gives a one-page overview that I think is useful for the committee in terms of the overall direction and mandate of the department and what we do for a living.

You'll see on that one page that we're a fairly large department. We're organized around three main directions: clean, safe, and sustainable. You'll note we have over 6,000 full-time equivalents in the department spread out across the country. Over 60% of our workforce is located outside Ottawa in the regions, and we have regional offices throughout the country. Also, more than 50% of our workforce is in the science and technology areas, so we are very much a science-based department, both in research and scientific support for decision-making.

The next block down delves a little more deeply into some of our core business lines in research, monitoring, our conservation and protection function, our regulatory function—we are a massive regulatory department, as some of my colleagues will describe—and obviously, given all that, we have a very strong enforcement function as well. The Meteorological Service of Canada is another important area, providing weather and forecasts and warnings and health quality information that's related to the environment.

Also, just at the bottom, you'll see some of the types of things we are involved with. We administer over 12 acts of Parliament and over 70 regulations. We have water quality monitoring stations across the country. We have many different national protected areas and sites. We look after endangered species, ice forecasts, and more monitoring activities.

This overview gives and idea of the wide variety and range of activities the department is involved in. As we pass down the line, I'll get into details on a number of those aspects, but this is the overview.

I might turn now quickly to pick up on some of the comments and situate for the committee where we are in climate change, because I suspect it's an area of interest coming out of the Paris conference as we work toward our attainment of our commitments under that agreement. Again, there's a short deck on it, just a few pages, that gives an overview of climate change.

Before I go through that, we have very recently, just a couple of weeks ago, published with the United Nations our “Second Biennial Report on Climate Change” for Canada.

11:15 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Dan McDougall

It really is high level. This document that we've just published with the United Nations is an up-to-date document we worked on with the provinces and territories to show where things stand and the measures and programs we have in place right across the country. It's available on the UNFCCC—United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—website, but we can get it to the committee clerk to distribute to members. It is the most current information available on climate change, not only federally but right across the country. It even includes all the measures that were announced by various governments in Paris. It also includes our emissions projections for the country by economic sector and by province right through to 2030, so it's the most current information on that.

The deck here just gives a few bits of information on where we are. The first thing I would note is that we are in the midst of working with the provinces and territories to develop a pan-Canadian framework on climate change. This obviously will be consistent with international obligations and what came out of Paris. The federal, provincial, and territorial environment ministers have been meeting on this already to support first ministers and the Prime Minister as they look toward a meeting in early March to work further on this issue. As I mentioned, the provinces and territories are very much involved with their own policies and programs, some of which are captured here in this report to the UN that I mentioned, and a number of others as well.

The next slide gives a sense of the sources of emissions in Canada from a climate perspective by economic sector. It's broken down in that pie chart. Oil and gas and transportation are the two largest sources of emissions, representing roughly a quarter each. Electricity generation, buildings, emission-intensive trade-exposed industries, agriculture, and waste are the other major categories of emissions, each comprising somewhere between 7% and 12% of all emissions across the country. That just gives a sense of where the emissions are coming from.

Similarly, on the next page, emissions are broken down by province. You'll see by province and territory the sources of emissions for both 2005 and 2013.

Finally, on the last page, there's an extract from our biennial report, which I mentioned, where we show the projections for emissions to 2030, based on measures that were in place as of 2030. One of the functions that we have within my branch is an economic modelling unit that does these types of projections for the government overall, and for the country. We look at what would happen if no further actions were taken and what emissions would be, so it gives us a sense of the order of magnitude that we need to achieve in order to meet our targets and a sense of the nature of the task in front of us.

You'll see different ranges and scenarios are possible within that. Obviously, the price of oil is one of the major determinants. What happens under a high-price scenario? What happens under a low-price scenario? We've got a reference case in the middle. This is also based on population projections and what's happening to the country in population growth and economic development. We generally use the information that the Department of Finance uses in economic growth projections, that StatsCan uses in population projections, and that the National Energy Board uses in oil price projections and production, and then we work in a variety of other factors with provinces and territories.

This doesn't include any of the measures that were announced by the provinces over the course of the fall or in Paris. A number of significant things were done there, and we're still working with the provinces and territories to incorporate them. As the details of what they have announced become known, we will incorporate them into our projections.

Irrespective of what happens on the climate change mitigation side of things, there's a lot happening in terms of the actual effects on the environment. Karen will probably touch more on this in her presentation. This slide gives a sense of the reality of what's happening in Canada now on a couple of fronts. You see in terms of temperature that Canada is actually warming at twice the global average. When people talk about 2° or 1.5°, we're already as a country past that mark. We are over 2.2° as a country. It's not evenly distributed; in some areas it's even higher. You can see here that the west, for example, and the north are feeling very significant impacts in terms of temperature increases.

Similarly, the second graphic looks at precipitation patterns and what's happening with snow and rainfall. Again some very significant changes are happening. They are very regional in orientation. In some of them we're seeing much greater increases in precipitation and in others we're getting into drought situations. It depends on where you live in the country. All of this is to say that adaptation to change in climate is going to have to be a fairly strong feature of whatever we do in tackling the issues associated with climate change. Mitigation is important, but dealing with the built-in temperature rise that's already in the atmosphere is going to be a feature of it as well.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much, Mr. McDougall. I just want to let you know that we're up to 11 minutes. I know we have quite a few other presentations, so I want to make sure that we are mindful of that as we progress.

Who's up next?

11:25 a.m.

Dr. Karen Dodds Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

I'll speak next. I will speak to, but not follow exactly, one of the decks you have, “Science and Technology Branch”, which is my area of responsibility.

One of the things I'll note right off the bat is that Environment and Climate Change Canada is one of the larger science-based departments and agencies within the federal government. As you can see from slide 2, a lot of the legislation that the department administers actually puts on the minister a responsibility for undertaking science. For example, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, it says that the minister shall monitor environmental quality and conduct research on pollution, toxic substances, and ecosystem disturbances. My colleague, Mike Beale, will talk about how we regulate under them, but science provides the underpinning information to which our colleagues will then build a regulatory or programmatic response.

We've put our science into four priority areas.

One is conservation and protection. That's looking at things under the Species at Risk Act, under the migratory birds act, or habitat kinds of issues.

Another priority is contaminants and stressors. Most of us recognize that mercury and lead in the environment are not things we want to have. These are the kinds of things we refer to as “contaminants and stressors”.

As Dan has already mentioned, climate change is another priority. We have some very senior folks who run very large-scale climate models with our colleagues from the meteorological services. We use the high-performance computers in Dorval to run very large models that give us scenarios going out into the future. That was the basis of the very last map that Dan showed you of regional differences, etc.

We also support the weather services, or the meteorological services, in terms of research.

As slide 3 shows, we monitor, assess, and report on threats to water quality, to air quality, and to aquatic ecosystems. As an example of this, we recently sent a report to the United Nations Environment Programme on our release of air pollutants.

In general, for Canada the story on air pollutants is a good one. I think specifically of emissions of nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, which are the two primary causes of acid rain. They've shown very significant reductions since the 1990s. A problem that science identified initially was what's happening to some of the forest ecosystems from acid acid rain, and even the parliamentary buildings have been damaged by acid rain. We've taken great steps through regulations to decrease emissions, and the science shows that such has been the case. Our emissions of problematic contaminants, such as mercury and lead, have also significantly decreased. In general, that's a good-news story.

We have also shown that the air quality over the greater Toronto area has improved since 2005, and that is, we would estimate, in step with vehicle emissions. As the vehicle emission standards came into place, we saw a quite significant improvement in air quality over Toronto.

We can do the same kind of analysis of water quality and fish and organisms' health in the environment. We look at species at risk and migratory birds.

We do risk assessment of chemicals under the Chemicals Management Plan.

Again, from my branch side, we do the very heavy science-based assessment of the risks. What are the hazards these chemicals pose to different parts in the environment, and what exposure is the environment is likely to have from these? Then that information is transmitted to our colleagues in the regulatory branch, in Mike Beale's branch, to explore what we can do to regulate and improve the situation.

As Dan said, we do research on climate change to understand the processes. Again, he showed us some differences in temperature increase in Canada. When we briefed first ministers, that was the first time we publicly stated that the temperature in Canada is estimated to increase at twice the global average. If globally we say that we're heading for a 1.5° or a 2° increase, within Canada we predict that means a 3° to 4° centigrade increase in the temperature across Canada.

I'll just note, as Dan did, that we have a very large contingent of scientists in my branch and as well in the meteorological services branch. You'll see in the deck that we are one of the top-performing science organizations and that we do most of that work in partnership.

I look forward to responding to any questions you have.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. That was great.

I just want to be mindful of the time, as we're at 17 minutes now. I don't want to speed you up, because I think the information you're sharing is incredibly helpful to us, but I'm just mindful of the time.

Thank you. Go ahead.

11:30 a.m.

Louise Métivier Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Department of the Environment

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I will try to be brief. My presentation is entitled “International Climate Change”. I will be speaking mostly in English, but I will be pleased to answer your questions in French.

As you will have seen in the document Mr. McDougall mentioned earlier, Environment Canada is a party to more than 85 international environmental agreements. We thus have an enormous international presence regarding environmental matters.

Of course, the major event which to some degree colours everything we do in the context of these international agreements is the Paris Conference, which took place in December, as well as the agreement we negotiated that month. My comments will mostly be focused on that event, but I will be pleased to answer any other questions.

The Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, changed our world on international climate change. It was one of the biggest conferences of the parties ever to take place under the convention. Over 40,000 participants attended this conference, and it shows the importance that the world is putting on this issue. The negotiations were the culmination of four years of negotiations on an international agreement with legal force applicable to all countries. That is the key difference compared to most efforts that have been undertaken in the past on climate change. This agreement is universal and is applicable to 195 countries. That is unprecedented. It is a significant step and it is a big success on its own. It also comes with its challenges, of course. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that was an incredible success.

Slide 3 is a bit of an overview of our key approach going into Paris for this negotiation. We wanted to go there with an approach that was very inclusive with regard to provinces, territories, and stakeholders. You probably saw that the Canadian delegation was very diverse and brought in key stakeholders. Our commissioner was there along with businesses, ENGOs, youth, and aboriginal leaders. They were there to advise us and provide us with input, and we met with them regularly. The approach that we took to the negotiations was very inclusive.

We went there with a mandate to make sure that this agreement was based on robust science, and I think that actually permeated or influenced a lot of the negotiations. Actually, the agreement calls for continued improvements to the science as we go through future cycles of targets and commitments. It calls for a lot of work on science as well, which Karen will be involved in.

A key outcome of the agreement that was part of our approach was the necessity to transition to a low-carbon resilient economy. That is basically at the core of the agreement. You will see that this is the ultimate goal of the agreement: to transition to a low-carbon economy. The long-term goal and commitment is to reach carbon neutrality by the second half of this century. One long-term goal is to maintain our temperature rise at 2°, as you know, with an effort to further reduce that to 1.5°. It's a very ambitious agreement and also a progressive and dynamic agreement, under which countries will undertake new commitments every five years, which will be ever more stringent to help us go towards these goals.

There's a more prominent role for adaptation in this agreement. In terms of ensuring that we support adaptation, developing countries require a lot of support there, so climate finance and supporting developing countries in their efforts to adapt and mitigate was also a key part of the agreement.

Canada played a very active role in the negotiation of this agreement. We facilitated some key aspects of the agreement. We also joined many of the complementary international initiatives or declarations. I've listed some of them on slide 4.

The key point I wanted to make was that implementing the Paris agreement will not do it on its own. This requires mobilizing pretty much the global community through many other fora, including mobilizing the private sector. We're going to be working in parallel in many other forums to advance and to try to mobilize complementary efforts for the agreement. Working on implementing all the details on the agreement is not the end in itself.

On slide 5 I wanted to flag some the climate finance we've announced in Paris. The government announced $2.65 billion to support developing countries on climate finance. We've announced some key initiatives there. This was very well received and helped also in our negotiations.

On slides 6 and 7 I wanted to flag some of the key complementary initiatives we're going to be working under, as I've mentioned.

The key one is Canada has just undertaken the co-chair role of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. This is dealing with methane and HFCs and other short-lived climate forces; those are key gases to target to reach our target, so we're going to be working with our North American partners under this body.

The Arctic Council is now under U.S. chairmanship, but Canada just finished the chairmanship there. There was a lot of work there to advance some of these issues.

The last one that's key to mention is our efforts to phase out HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons. That's under the Montreal protocol. We've been working very closely with Mexico and the U.S. under the Montreal protocol. Mike can talk more about this, but that's also a key initiative to be able to reach our objective and to support the Paris agreement.

I have just a few words in closing about our next step on this agreement. There will be a signing ceremony for the agreement hosted by the UN Secretary-General on April 22. Then the agreement will be open for ratification, starting pretty much on that date. There is a lot of outreach from the Secretary-General and from other countries, especially the U.S., to try to get an early entry into force of the Paris agreement, so we might see a number of countries actually ratifying on the spot, maybe on April 22, but we're not sure about that at this point. The agreement comes into force when 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions have ratified.

Then we're going to continue. There is a lot of work. There's a huge work program as part of the Paris agreement between now and 2020. We're going to start that in May. The next COP, in Marrakesh, will also be key on some of the decisions around the details of the Paris agreement.

I will stop here.

Thank you.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. I really appreciate the amount of information you're giving us.

I'm going to have to ask for the agreement of the committee. We have one more speaker on this particular agenda from the department, and we're going to be very close on questioning if we don't....

Do I have the agreement from the committee to have, Mike, maybe a very short, truncated...?

I have time for two rounds of questioning with still 10 minutes for each of the other two departments, but it will have to be quite quick.

Do we have agreement from the committee to hear Mike?

Go ahead, Mr. Cullen.

11:40 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I thought the agreement was that we were giving the department 20 minutes.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We did, and we have gone over.

11:40 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

We're at 30.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Well, no, we're at 26 minutes.

11:40 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Oh, excuse me.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Do I have agreement from the committee for four minutes for Mr. Beale? Is that fair?

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay, thank you.

I'm sorry to rush you, but please be quick.

11:40 a.m.

Mike Beale Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment

It's not a problem. I probably will not need four minutes.

I'm going to talk to the deck entitled “Environmental Stewardship Branch”. The environmental stewardship branch is essentially the regulatory and key program branch in the department. All the regulations and most of the programs are in my area.

I'll walk you very quickly through the deck.

Wildlife is obviously a key part of what we do. The Canadian Wildlife Service is in my branch. The Canadian Wildlife Service has various aspects to it. We administer migratory bird sanctuaries and protected areas. We administer the Migratory Birds Convention Act. We administer the Species at Risk Act, as well as WAPPRIITA, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which is the act that essentially administers CITES, the international convention on trade in endangered species. A lot of our work is driven by the international context—the Convention on Biological Diversity and CITES.

I'm just going to look at page 5. The Species at Risk Act is a large part of what we do. There are various stages set out in SARA for assessment and eventually protection of species at risk. There's an independent committee that provides assessments, a listing that is done by the Governor in Council, and we oversee recovery documents and protection measures. We're well under way to eliminating a backlog that we inherited on recovery documents. We expect that in a year from now, that backlog will be eliminated.

On page 6 I talk about CEPA, which is one of the two other major pieces of legislation that we administer. CEPA is the basis for a lot of our regulatory measures. We are one of the, if not the, most active regulatory departments in town. We give Treasury Board a lot of its business.

Karen talked about the chemicals management plan. Again, we're the risk managers. We work closely with the scientists and use what they tell us to decide what we need to propose to the minister and Governor in Council in terms of what regulations to put into place. Among the regulations that we currently administer, there are a lot on vehicles for both air pollution and greenhouse gases.

I'm going to talk finally about the Fisheries Act, on page 9. The Fisheries Act is where we administer the pollution prevention provisions, and we have a number of regulations under that act that we administer.

Finally, we provide support to the agency and to the National Energy Board on environmental assessment.

I will stop there. Thank you.

11:45 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. I'm really sorry to rush, but I appreciate that you got through that quite quickly.

I'd like to move to Parks Canada. If Ms. Pearse could start, that would be great. Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Jane Pearse Chief Administrative Officer, Parks Canada

Thank you very much.

There is a document here that is essentially the same document we use to brief the minister on the Parks Canada portfolio, and I'm going to move very quickly in referencing some of the pages in that document.

On page 4, we talk about the mandate of Parks Canada “to protect and present nationally significant examples of...natural and cultural heritage”. At the very highest level, that's what we do.

In doing that, we have 46 national parks and a systems plan that will protect representative regions across the country. We're about 77% complete on that systems plan for the parks. We have one national urban park, the Rouge, which, as you all probably are aware, is in transition to becoming fully operational.

We have four national marine conservation areas that represent five of the 29 marine regions across the country.

We have 168 national historic sites that are representative of our heritage, culture, and persons of national significance. Among them are 11 world heritage sites; those sites and parklands have been recognized as important from the world perspective.

Parks Canada is responsible for 31 million artifacts, which we present in our places, and we also have collections facilities across the country.

Probably the lesser-known fact is that we have about 12,000 built assets across the country. Those were valued in 2012 at $16 billion in current replacement value. Those built assets include things that you would expect, such as the Halifax Citadel—another historic site—and the walls of Quebec City, but they also include about 1,000 kilometres of highway, including the Trans-Canada Highway going through the mountain parks.

We have about 200 dams. We have a lot of bridges on the Trent-Severn Waterway, and then, obviously, there are the operations facilities that Parks Canada uses. There's a great diversity.

Oh, I'm sorry. I meant to mention the townsites. We have five townsites across Canada. You would be aware of Banff, Jasper, Waterton, and Waskesiu. Parks Canada is responsible for water quality, waste water treatment, and garbage pickup, almost like a municipality.

Page 5 provides a map that gives you a sense of the diversity of the locations of Parks Canada's operations. You'll see that there are a lot of very remote and isolated areas that we are active in.

Page 10 will give you a very short review of our financial situation. Normally, Parks Canada's budget is around $600 million. You may recall that in 2014 there was an announcement of federal infrastructure investment. Parks Canada received about $2.6 billion in that investment program. You'll see that we have about $600 million in capital investment money this year and going forward to 2020. Our budget is about $1.1 billion, but about half of that is this one-off capital funding.

In terms of HR, on page 12 we indicate that we have about 4,200 full-time equivalents, but in Parks Canada about 50% of our positions are term or seasonal. We have quite a number of seasonal indeterminates, which is somewhat unusual in the federal government. It means that a person has a permanent job with Parks Canada, but it is only for a period of time, a five-month or six-month period of time in the year, and that's so we can match up with our operational seasons and the periods when our sites and parks are open.

We also hire a lot of students, about 1,200 students every summer, and we're pleased that we have a representation of about 8% indigenous people, which is above the workforce average for labour force availability. We make a lot of efforts to do outreach to the communities and the indigenous communities that are close to our parks and sites.

Page 19 gives you a very brief overview of what we do. Obviously ecological integrity is a big part of what we do, including the state of the parks, ecological restoration, species at risk, and remediation projects. We are worried about contaminated sites that are under our responsibility.

Under heritage conservation, as I said, we have 31 million artifacts. That's an important part of what we do.

With regard to visitation, we promote the parks and encourage people to come. We look after people when they're there. We have visitor safety. We have rescue services when people get into bad situations in the back country.

We spend a lot of effort on infrastructure programs and on realty. We are one of the few parts of the federal government that actually leases federally owned buildings out to other participants, as opposed to the other way around. We have quite a lot of activities in that area.

Page 32 gives a list of eight issues we have highlighted that we feel are issues facing the agency. This includes the capital investment program. We did get a one-time investment that dealt with deferred work that was identified in 2012, but we have an ongoing fiscal gap in our funding to deal with our capital investments. We need to have discussions and consideration of how to move forward on that.

Other concerns include reconciliation and the Franklin expedition. We were pleased to be able to find the Franklin ship in the north. The question now is how to move forward with that and bring that find to Canadians. There's commemorating Canada 150, and the role Parks Canada can play in that. Development pressure in the parks is always an issue that we need to be very sensitive to. Another is the approach to visitor service, which is linked to development pressures. The last two issues are science capacity and the Never Forgotten national memorial.

I would be happy to take questions on the structure of Parks Canada as an agency, or indeed on any of the issues.

Thank you.

11:50 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much, Ms. Pearse, for being so quick. We've now gained a little bit of time for the next presentation.

We'll ask Ms. Smith from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to please start.

Thank you very much.

11:55 a.m.

Heather Smith Vice-President, Operations , Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Thank you very much.

It is a real pleasure to be here with you today. I will be making my statement in English, but if you have questions in French, I will be pleased to answer them.

I'm going to be using a deck presentation, and I'll work you through it quickly.

Turning to page 3 of the presentation, I want to talk a little about what environmental assessment is.

Environmental assessment is a planning tool. It's designed to bring environmental considerations into project planning and into economic development. Also, because humans are part of the environment, a lot of social questions come up in environmental assessments too.

A way of thinking about environmental assessments is that it's where sustainable development gets worked out in a practical way. Those interests—social, economic, environmental—intersect and sometimes collide in the environmental assessment process. Environmental assessment processes can be contentious if there's controversy about an economic development project, and there is also a lot of legitimate disagreement about what the process should be when we look at environmental and social considerations in project planning.

It will be an important aspect of the work that this committee will do during this government's mandate. That's clear from the environment minister's mandate letter, so I'd like to tell you a bit about how the process works right now.

It's designed to be used early in a planning process for a project, before any decisions are made. It's designed to ensure that costly mistakes are avoided. We identify what the potential effects of the project could be. We tend to focus on what the adverse effects are, but we also look at what the positive effects can be, and we identify measures to mitigate adverse effects.

A key part of the process is to provide opportunities for the public to participate, to learn about the project, and to think about how it might affect them and what could be done about it to make it an acceptable project for them. It's a key forum for us to consider impacts on indigenous peoples and to address those impacts. It's a key tool for achieving accommodation and reconciliation of aboriginal rights with other public interests.

In the environmental assessment process, you can expect that the proponent's design will change over the course of the process. That is what the process is designed to do. It's designed to drive beneficial changes to the project design. It's not designed to stop a project from proceeding, but sometimes, at the end of the process, political decision-makers will decide that no matter what we do to change the project to reduce the adverse effects, those adverse effects are not justified in the circumstances.

It's always a political call as to whether the project proceeds or doesn't proceed. The environmental assessment process is simply designed to provide information to decision-makers. How they weigh that decision and what decision they make is ultimately the call of politicians.

Next is slide 4. I'll tell you a little bit about the Environmental Assessment Agency. The Environmental Assessment Agency is the policy centre for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, so it drives environmental assessment policy. It's one of three responsible authorities under the current act, which is known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. We also conduct environmental assessments that are still going on under the former environmental assessment act. Those are known as comprehensive studies. In other words, we're administering two different pieces of legislation at the same time.

The agency is headquartered in Ottawa. We five regional offices located in Halifax, Quebec, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver. We function as something known as the “crown consultation coordinator” for the government in the context of environmental assessments.

Environmental assessment happens very early in the decision-making process for a project, before the regulatory process. It's really the first chance that people have to look at what's being proposed and decide whether it's acceptable or not acceptable. It's the first opportunity the government has to engage with indigenous people about the potential impacts on them.

We coordinate the government's interrelationship with indigenous groups on behalf of all the departments that participate in the environmental assessment process.

We're a very small organization. We have a budget currently of about $32 million and we have about 250 employees spread across the country. If you'd like more information about our budget, there's a breakdown on slide 15 of the deck. You will notice that some of that money is temporary funding, which I hope will come to your attention.

I'll give you a bit of an overview of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, CEAA 2012. This piece of legislation focuses on projects that have greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects, particularly in areas of federal jurisdiction. The projects are identified through regulations with the cumbersome title of “regulations designating physical activities”, the designated projects list. Under the former act, we had a list called the projects list. It does create some confusion for people who have worked in environmental assessment for a while.

There are three parts to the projects list: a list that applies to projects assessed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a list of projects assessed by the National Energy Board, and a list of projects that are the responsibility of the Environmental Assessment Agency. It's designed to have each of the three authorities and to be clear as to who would be handling what type of project.

When the agency is responsible for a project, we do a screening process at the outset, during which we consider whether an environmental assessment is required in the circumstances, so we're not doing an environmental assessment at that stage but asking whether we should be doing an environmental assessment. At that stage, very early in the process, we're looking at the potential effects that could occur through this project. A key consideration for us is whether there's some other process during which these effects could be examined and addressed, such as a regulatory process or a provincial environmental assessment process. All of those factors are taken into consideration when we determine whether an environmental assessment is required.

The CNSC and the NEB do not go through that process. If the project's on their list, they automatically do an environmental assessment.

There are two types of environmental assessments under CEAA 2012. One is conducted by the responsible authorities, so in our case the agency conducts the environmental assessment. The other type involves an independent panel that examines and conducts the environmental assessment and holds public hearings. That's a more formal process, but we try to make the process as informal as possible so that people feel comfortable coming forward and participating in it. We've had good success through that process.

There's also a list here of what we look at through the environmental assessment process.

The other thing I want to point out to you is that a number of other federal departments participate in our process by providing their science, advice, and expertise. Key among them is Environment Canada, but we get advice from DFO, from Transport Canada, from NRCan, etc.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of public participation and how there are several opportunities in the process for the public to learn about it. I've also talked about indigenous consultation, which is described in a little bit more detail on slide 8.

Slide 9 talks about the details of decision-making. Ultimately, it's either the Minister of the Environment or cabinet that makes those decisions.

12:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I hate to do this, but we have to have the 50 minutes for questioning, and I just need you to wrap it up, please. Thanks.

12:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations , Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Heather Smith


There is some information at the back of the deck about current environmental assessments that are under way and some high-profile projects that are currently in the process.

I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you have.