Evidence of meeting #58 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 carbon.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Daniel Watson  Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency
Stephen Lucas  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I have one last quick question.

The minister frequently speaks of the need to move to clean energy, particularly renewables, which I appreciate. I'm puzzled because nowhere in the budget of the main estimates are any dollars given to the environment minister on this. In fact, the only thing in the main estimates is the entire transfer of the fund to Mr. Bains.

I would appreciate some clarification of who in the government has the mandate and the dollars to start moving us toward a cleaner energy economy.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

There are dollars across the board. I'm less focused on who has the dollars than that we're acting. There's the $2-billion, low-carbon economy fund where we're working with provinces and territories to reduce emissions.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Is that under you?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Yes. That is under my responsibility with the Minister of Finance.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Even if it isn't shown in the main estimates?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I'd like to remind the member that there are also innovative ways of financing. The infrastructure bank is a very good example of how you can match private sector funding with government support to facilitate and enhance the use of renewables.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you, Ms. Duncan.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We have a little more time as you've committed to us to stay for at least an hour and a half.

I was suggesting, if you're all in agreement, that we might do one more round of five minutes each. That gets us pretty much to the top of the hour.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I'll give mine to Wayne.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Sure.

Is everybody in agreement?

Okay. We'll start with the Liberal side. I think the Liberal side might be suggesting....

Go ahead, Mike.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Chair—

4:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Chair, on the record—

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Hang on. You don't need to worry. We're looking after you, okay?

Go ahead, Mike.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Chair, I was just about to say that the Liberals would be happy to pass our time along to Elizabeth May for her to ask some questions.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We are a very accommodating committee here and we try to give everybody a chance at the table.

Ms. May, you have five minutes.

May 1st, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you. I didn't know I'd get this off the top.

Thanks very much to all committee members. I appreciate it.

Welcome, Minister. When we're in Parliament, we have to call each other “the honourable member”, while around a committee table it tends to be more informal, so it's nice to see you again, Cath, and good to see you, Jon.

Jonathan, I want to try to ask, in five minutes, some very focused things.

One is that as I read the budget, I was glad to see the money for Parks Canada, absolutely, but I spoke to the Finance Canada guys in the room when we were looking at it in the lock-up, and it looked like it was mostly or almost entirely for acquisition. It didn't flow into the day-to-day running of the department.

There were significant cuts in the 2012 budget. There were 10% cuts. That meant that Parks Canada lost all its scientific capacity in terms of people doing the research in our parks and checking on ecological integrity. I'd like to ask—if Finance Canada gave me the right information at the time—if there could be a view to increasing the operating budget of Parks Canada to ensure that there is enough staff on the ground.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Elizabeth, my swimming friend, although I haven't been swimming recently.

Look, protecting and restoring ecological integrity is the first priority for Parks Canada. We have increased the number of scientists. As you say, there were significant cuts in scientists and in science, so it's certainly a priority for our government. Included in the funding that was provided for 2017 on the experience side, we are looking at how we promote ecological integrity.

I've had a great opportunity to visit national parks on my vacation time, at my own expense—family expense—with my family, where I've seen our amazing parks folks in action. They are incredible. I think that's the best experience you could possibly have, going to look at and to track animals, which I did in Banff National Park, but I am going to ask Daniel Watson to answer, if he wants to.

4:45 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency

Daniel Watson

Sure.

There are two points that I would raise in answer to your question.

In the first instance, money that comes to Parks Canada comes under a single vote, unlike in many other places where there's a division between capital and operating. Given the issues of occupational health and safety and the sorts of life-and-limb issues that accompany many of our issues related to infrastructure, such as the fortifications around the walls of Quebec City, for example, or washouts on highways, we always go in and fix those things before they kill somebody or injure someone. When you have to do that without the right amount of infrastructure money, it means that you take away from operations. In fact, while this money is labelled for infrastructure, it reduces the call on the monies we have that otherwise go to protection and effectively adds it back, in many ways, to operations. It is an absolutely critical trade-off to significantly expand our ability to fund operations.

The second point I would raise is that in 2011 there were 169 science professionals at Parks Canada. That dropped by 50 two years later, in 2013, and at that time Parks Canada was in the process of developing a plan. We've now published the first result of that plan. Today, we're back up to 150 people, despite the fact that what we're doing now is implementing that plan rather than developing it. The number of people who are today in the process of delivering on that plan is arguably even greater than it was before 2011. Again, some of the infrastructure money that has come in will relieve pressure and that will allow us to increase some of that science capacity.

4:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I'll move to my second question quickly, which is on the climate issue, but I have to say that I'm not entirely satisfied. I think we need to go back and restore funding to Parks Canada. I go to national parks all the time, and I see a declining capacity to handle visitors and to protect the environment.

On climate, you've referred to the targets as “ambitious”. It wasn't that long ago that I remember you describing them as the floor, and not the ceiling. The targets we have now are the same targets Stephen Harper put in place: 30% below 2005 by 2030. It isn't even arguable—it's just obvious—that the targets we, and in fairness, the world has, the NDCs collectively, fall far short of the Paris commitment.

You were in the lead on that in saying that we're going to try to hold it to a 1.5° Celsius global average temperature increase, so my question is very specific. When will your cabinet and your department consider ratcheting up our inadequate NDC?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

In fact, I'm very proud of our government, because you can have a target and not have a plan, and then it doesn't really count for anything. We actually did the hard work that was required to come up with a plan, a very comprehensive plan, that was ambitious: phasing out coal by 2030, putting a price on carbon pollution, introducing a new low-carbon fuel standard, and historic investments in public transit and green infrastructure. But as part of the Paris agreement, as you know, you need to ratchet up your commitment, and we're certainly committed to doing that with the rest of the world.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

Mr. Fast.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Thank you.

I'd like to piggyback on some comments that my colleague Mr. Eglinski made earlier on natural sequestration. I was pleased to hear that there is some work going on now on the extent to which industries such as the forest industry can contribute to sequestration. Did the recent budget include any new money for that kind of research?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I can defer to my deputy for details. When it comes to forestry issues, as you probably understand, that's not part of my portfolio—

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Okay.