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

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay.

You also mentioned in your 2016 report on pesticides that risky pesticides were ending up on shelves. Store owners didn't know about them. Consumers certainly didn't know about the potentially dangerous pesticides that were showing up. The government's gone away from one action that was announced, but is there an ability to inform consumers or to simply pull these pesticides off the shelves?

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have 10 seconds, Mr. Cullen.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Thank you.

Has that been changed? Does government now have the ability to let Canadians know when they're at risk? That was one of your recommendations.

12:25 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

Yes. I don't know if they've acted on that quite yet. I will be coming back next week, and I can try to get you that answer.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Wonderful. Thank you.

Thank you, Chair.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Mr. Amos is next.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you to all of the witnesses. It's wonderful to be starting working with you. I look forward to continuing this conversation. Obviously this is just an introduction. I have relationships going back the late 1990s with so many of you, so this is really kind of fun. I almost don't know where to start.

Before I forget, I would like to pass a message through you to your colleagues at both Parks Canada and Environment Canada. Many colleagues who work with you live in my riding of Pontiac.

There are quite a few of them. Many of the people in our community work with you and we would very much like you to let them know that we will be listening.

I would also like to pass along the message that if there are ever colleagues of yours who would like to approach us directly to simply ask what we are thinking on the committee, as individuals, please encourage them to come to us. I appreciate that civil servants also have to respond directly to the minister, but we're open to discussion.

I'd like to direct my first question around budget and science capacity to Dr. Dodds and Mr. McDougall. Could you please characterize for us the nature of budgetary cuts in the past decade to Environment Canada's science capacity and how that has impacted its capacity around strategic policy?

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Dr. Karen Dodds

I can talk about the science capacity at the department.

I've been in my position since January 2011, and the whole department has experienced budgetary pressure. One of the things we've looked was whether any reductions impacted the science community as compared to any others, and there hasn't been a difference in the level of impact for the science branch and for the science community as compared to others.

Carol Najm, our chief financial officer, would have the specific numbers. I was more concerned about whether, in the overall reductions, we were unfairly or disproportionately either relieved from pressures or had pressures applied, and whether they were the same across the whole department as they were in my branch.

As we went through the reductions, our focus was on maintaining the core capacity that Environment and Climate Change Canada needed to undertake all its responsibilities, and we made every effort to make sure that our core science capacity was maintained. Most of what we did was consolidation.

We have to report on an annual basis to Statistics Canada on our science expenditures, so you can look at the Statistics Canada science expenditures and see that they've remained pretty constant in the department.

12:25 p.m.

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

Dan McDougall

From a policy perspective, over the last five years that I've been with the department, we've been having an increasing integration between science and policy, and that's reflective of what's happening in the international sphere as well. For example, the United Nations Environment Programme globally has put in place programs that try to integrate those two things more closely so that when the scientists are assessing the current state of the environment or the nature of policy problems that are coming up, the two sides of the equation—the problem and how you take action—are becoming much more closely aligned.

A good example of that is the work that's been done on what Louise referred to as “short-lived climate pollutants”, the non-carbon dioxide actors that are having a fairly significant effect on climate change, such as methane and HFCs. The work that's been going on between science and policy on that front is very closely linked. A discrete number of potential avenues where you get the most bang for the buck are identified by science, and the policy and regulatory folks have been working with the scientists on—

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have one minute.

12:30 p.m.

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

Dan McDougall

—what you put in place to deal with the problem. The collaboration is getting stronger.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thanks.

I've heard Dr. Dodds mention that there have been pressures and cutbacks, but that the cutbacks were not disproportionate in science as related to other aspects. Is it fair to say that there has been a significant reduction in science conducted at Environment Canada?

12:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Dr. Karen Dodds

You'll see in our—

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

I don't mean just for 2011, but in the last 10 years, since the previous government. I'm trying to get a sense of where science is.

12:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Dr. Karen Dodds

One of the metrics we use is the number of peer-reviewed scientific publications. You'll see in the presentation deck that we shared with everybody that it's remained at approximately 700 per year, and that's been a constant number over about the last decade. In terms of productivity, just using that metric, it's stayed very constant.

Again, my budget on an annual basis is roughly $145 million. I have over 1,300 folks who are almost all, except for a very small percentage, in the science and tech community, and my branch is not the only part of science and technology in the department. Meteorological services is almost all science and tech as well, and their budget has done about the same as mine.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I'm sorry that I have to cut this off. We've run out of time.

I have to move to Mr. Fisher.

Thank you very much.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you, folks, for the overview. You've provided us all a massive amount of information.

I'll ask a Cape Breton boy, Mr. McDougall, if I could.

You've read the mandate letter. How significant a change or transition do you feel your department will have to make with this new government, now that you know what the minister's mandate letter stipulates she must accomplish?

I guess I should say I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Bossio.

12:30 p.m.

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

Dan McDougall

We've certainly read the mandate letter. There are a significant number of things noted in it that will be accomplished over the term of the government.

One thing that's not in the mandate letter is a sense of the timing associated with those goals. Certainly we've been very active with the minister on the climate change file, most notably. It was probably day two after she was appointed when she went with the chief negotiator to the pre-COP negotiations for a series of negotiations, followed very closely by the climate conference.

We are now in the process of working with the minister to advance work on the pan-Canadian framework with the provinces and territories. She has already had a number of meetings and discussions with provincial and territorial counterparts on that front.

Clearly climate change is front and centre in terms of mandate priority at the moment. That is partly driven by international circumstances, partly driven by the urgency of the need, and partly driven by the magnitude of the task. It's been the clear priority.

There are obviously a number of other things identified in the mandate letter that fall right across the breadth of the department and the portfolio. The department is organizing itself to make sure we can assist the minister in delivering on her priorities and working closely with her in that regard.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I do have lots more I could ask, but I will pass my remaining time on to Mr. Bossio.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you all, once again, for your presentations. They were very informative.

My question is, on the international side, for Ms. Métivier. In the international climate talks, the focus has understandably been on carbon, but I wonder also if the overall sustainability of consumption within society has been considered at the international level in any way at all.

12:35 p.m.

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

Louise Métivier

The agreement is aimed at limiting temperature rise and controlling GHG emissions, but if you read a lot of the principles and the preamble of the agreement, there are a lot of principles or commitments to do this through a sustainable development lens. There is also a really strong link with the sustainable development agenda that was approved last year under the UN, which has around 17 targets.

I can't say that sustainable consumption is targeted by a specific article in the agreement, but it's kind of at the core of sustainable development or resilience of the economy.

Also, a big part of this agenda is about mobilizing action before 2020. There's also a lot of work being done on some of these aspects, such as that by non-state actors, in parallel to the agreement.

I can't say that you could point to a specific article in the agreement, but certainly a very big part of the equation is trying to change the patterns of society.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Okay. Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

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

Louise Métivier

If you read about some of the nationally determined contributions that some countries have put forward, you will see that some focus very strongly on some areas of consumption in order to change behaviour to reach their greenhouse gas targets. It's certainly part of the tool box for many countries.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have one minute.

February 18th, 2016 / 12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

On the targets we have set of 524 megatonnes for 2030, is that going to help us to achieve the goal of a 1.5-degree or 2-degree rise in temperature, or is that just a starting point to get there in the long term? I'm sure they've all set their different targets out there.