Great, and thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon everyone. I am delighted to be here.
I'm going to start by recognizing we're on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples. That's something I take extraordinarily seriously in my job. Indigenous peoples—first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples—were the first stewards of our land, our water, our air, and protectors of our animals.
Madam Chair, members of the committee, dear colleagues, I'm delighted to be here with you today to discuss the 2017-18 main estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Parks Canada Agency, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. I'm pleased to be joined today by Jonathan Wilkinson, my awesome parliamentary secretary, whom you know well; Dr. Stephen Lucas, deputy minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada; Daniel Watson, CEO of the Parks Canada Agency; and Ron Hallman, president of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
I would like to use this opportunity today to look back at some of our achievements this past year in protecting our environment and strengthening our economy. I would also like to look forward at some of our plans to build on these successes.
My key priority continues to be ensuring our government provides national leadership to reduce emissions, fight climate change, and make Canada competitive in the emerging low-carbon global economy. As I always say, the environment and the economy go together. We know that the world is moving, markets are moving, and that we need to support innovation, good jobs, and clean growth for all Canadians.
Planning for a low-carbon economy today is the smart strategic decision for Canada's present and future economic prosperity.
Canadians understand this. They know that reducing our greenhouse gas emissions will make our economy more competitive and allow it to grow in a sustainable way.
The transition is already under way. On December 9, 2016, Canada's first ministers and indigenous leaders finalized the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This plan will allow Canada to meet its emissions reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The approach will be to give Canada an edge in building a clean-growth economy. It will make Canadian businesses more innovative and competitive. It will bring new and exciting job prospects for middle-class Canadians. As well, as a co-benefit, it will also reduce the pollution that threatens our clean air and oceans, as well as the health of Canadians.
We're supporting the framework with a series of regulations that will play a key role in meeting our Paris target. These include methane, hydrofluorocarbons, heavy-duty vehicles, the phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030, and performance standards for natural gas-fired electricity. We're also working to develop a federal clean fuel standard.
We're helping Canadian companies adopt low-carbon, energy-efficient equipment and processes. We're promoting Canadian innovation and supporting clean technology companies as they scale up to compete in the global market.
Budget 2017 includes major investments in clean innovation that will ultimately create good middle-class jobs and reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. As well as funding for green infrastructure and renewable energy, budget 2017 provides more than $2.2 billion to support clean technology.
I would like to turn now to the 2017 main estimates.
But before I begin, I want to emphasize that the main estimates we are discussing today do not include new funding announced in Budget 2017. The amounts are a portion of the funding that the department and the agencies in my portfolio will request over the course of the fiscal year.
In terms of the 2017-18 main estimates for Environment and Climate Change Canada, planned spending is $987.3 million. This is an increase of $85.2 million over the 2016-17 main estimates.
Since tabling these main estimates, budget 2017 provides for action on short-lived climate pollutants, our transportation system, accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation, performance standards for natural gas electric generation, developing a framework for offshore renewable energy projects, and establishing a new Canadian centre for climate services.
Budget 2017 also provides funding to better protect Canada's freshwater resources, including in the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg basins. As well, it allocates funds to support strong action on air pollution.
Madam Chair, I would like to now bring to your attention the important work that is being done by Parks Canada to preserve our national parks, expand the system of protected places, and contribute to the recovery of species at risk.
National parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas represent the very best that Canada has to offer and tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures and contributions of indigenous peoples.
The year 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and it's a chance for all Canadian families to get out and explore the rich, natural heritage that Canada has to offer. As you all know, admission to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada is free this year. I'm delighted to let you know that we've already received over 5.5 million orders for the free 2017 discovery pass.
We tabled amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act, which will protect the Rouge's important ecosystems and ensure that ecological integrity is the first priority when managing the park.
We are continuing to invest in infrastructure work to heritage, visitor, waterway and highway assets, including highway and trail projects. These investments will ensure the quality and reliability of visitor facilities, continue to allow Canadians to connect with nature, and create jobs and economic growth through tourism.
Budget 2017 provides up to $364 million over two years starting in 2018-19 to continue the management of national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites across the country. Investments in infrastructure ensure visitor safety and preserve our cultural heritage while supporting local communities.
In terms of the 2017-18 main estimates for the Parks Canada Agency, the planned spending for this fiscal year is approximately $1.4 billion. This is an increase of $215 million when compared with last year's main estimates. Budget 2017 also commits to expanding Canada's system of protected places.
In support of Canada's biodiversity targets to protect 17% of our land and 10% of coastal waters, we're advancing work to create new national parks and marine conservation areas, including the Thaidene Nene area in the Northwest Territories and marine areas in the Îles de la Madeleine, Lancaster Sound, and the southern Strait of Georgia.
We will also work with relevant provincial governments and indigenous organizations on potential new protected areas, including a proposed national park in the Manitoba Lowlands, and an additional marine conservation area in James Bay.
Funds are allocated to complete and maintain the Trans Canada Trail system. The trail connects people across the country, touching every provincial and territorial capital and linking together 15,000 communities. Once completed, the trail will be within 30 minutes of almost 29 million Canadians.
I'd also like to say that I'm very proud of our support for the indigenous guardians program. I think people are very excited about that program, and working with indigenous peoples is key to protecting our special places.
Madam Chair, I would now like to turn your focus to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Our government's priority on this front is to restore public trust in the federal environmental assessment processes so that we can get resources to market sustainably in the 21st century. We want to introduce new processes that are fair and robust, are based on scientific facts and evidence, serve the public's interest, respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and require project proponents to use the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts.
When we last met, I had announced an interim approach and principles to guide the assessment of major projects. Since then, we announced a review of federal environmental assessment processes last June.
An expert panel travelled across the country listening to Canadians, including indigenous peoples, on how to strengthen the environmental assessment process. On April 5, the expert panel report was released. We have been receiving comments from Canadians on the panel's recommendations. We'll be coming forward with proposals to achieve our goals based on the panel's report and other inputs, including discussions that we are having with indigenous peoples.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's total 2017-18 main estimates is $34.1 million. This is a net increase of $3.2 million, compared with the 2016-17 main estimates.
Together, the main estimates and new spending in budget 2017 will help create the clean-growth economy necessary for the collective health, prosperity, and security of this generation of Canadians and the next.
Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the tremendous work you are all doing within this committee. The health and sustainability of the environment is not a political issue. It is a tremendous responsibility to Canadians and to future generations of Canadians.
As you've demonstrated with your unanimous report on protected areas, this committee has a remarkable track record of working in a collaborative manner in providing recommendations to our government on important issues. We take these recommendations seriously.
I'd like to thank you for the report and note that I met with my counterparts from the provinces, territories, and national indigenous organizations this February. An important outcome is the collaborative process that we've embarked on. We're calling it “pathway to target one”. It brings together all our partners to develop advice and guidance on how to achieve our 2020 Aichi targets. I look forward to providing an update as this work progresses and responding to your committee's report.
I also appreciated your thoughtful work in developing recommendations to strengthen the Federal Sustainable Development Act, another unanimous report, and one we hope to move forward on in the very near future.
Finally, over the past year you have also been carrying out crucial work with your review of CEPA, 1999. This summer my officials and I will be taking a close look at options to improve CEPA. Our government is open to meaningful changes, and your recommendations will help us in this effort.
As well, I am aware that the committee may be studying heritage places. I am looking forward to learning more about this work.
Finally, I want to thank all of you for the valuable contribution that this committee provides to all Canadians.
I look forward to your questions.