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

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

It's good. I'm done.

I'm also happy to follow up with the member to talk about his particular circumstance.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you. That was a good question and a good answer.

Mr. Eglinski.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Thank you, Minister, for being here, and thank you to your staff. It's good to see you again, Daniel.

I'm not going to get on to you about the pine beetles. We'll leave that alone.

Mr. Fisher spoke earlier about the unanimous report on conservation by this committee. I'd like to just tell you, Minister, that I think this is one of the best committees up here right now. We work very well together, and I think the reason we do is that we all have the same train of thought. We want to protect the environment and the future for our children.

I just want to compliment them in front of you because you have a great team here.

4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear!

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

All right, so much for that.

In our unanimous report on conservation, our committee recommended that Canada lead an effort to determine the capacity of Canada's natural spaces to release and sequester carbon, and to evaluate the potential for increasing the capacity to sequester carbon. What we learned is that our scientists don't actually know what role our natural environment plays in carbon sequestration, be it agriculture, our vast wetlands, oceans, or forests.

I look at my own riding of Yellowhead. We're doing an experiment right now to grow industrial hemp. We are planting 5,000 acres this first year in conjunction with the province. Some of the scientists I've been talking to in my region tell me that hemp-growing sequesters five times as much carbon as a boreal forest. Also, the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change suggests that carbon sinks are a potential means of combatting climate change.

I'm wondering, besides carbon taxing, whether your department has put any resources forward to conduct the integral scientific work that needs to be done. What is your future plan in relation to that? I think that's very important when we're looking at our overall world picture.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Thank you very much. I do want to start by recognizing the hard work of this committee. Having two unanimous reports in the current environment—and I don't mean the physical environment, but maybe the environment over there—is a testament to how you all work very hard because you believe it is the right thing to do to protect our environment. I'm very proud of the work of this committee. I think it's a great example for other committees.

In terms of the question of carbon sequestration, you're absolutely right. Carbon sequestration is important. We need to get the accounting right. There are different ways of doing the accounting and making sure that we do it right. I don't think you could just do carbon sequestration and hope that you were going to meet your climate change targets. You still need to do things like put a price on pollution and have regulations, and also invest in innovation so we get the solutions.

I'm going to turn it over to my very able deputy, who's also a scientist, to give us some more detail.

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Thank you, Minister.

I would note that the Canadian Forest Service at Natural Resources Canada has active research. They're measuring, monitoring, and modelling forest carbon sinks, and looking at the role of natural disturbances and the subsequent regeneration. That goes to both the science and understanding for different tree species, the amount of carbon they store, and as well, understanding from an accounting perspective the role of natural disturbances.

In addition, they have initiatives in terms of increasing the use of wood in building, for example, as a means of helping the Canadian wood industry, but also for storing carbon for the longer term. Scientists and officials at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are working with their counterparts in Canada and internationally, looking at stored carbon in agricultural soils, contributing to the understanding in terms of land use and land use change, and working with provinces and territories in developing the next agricultural policy framework, in particular in the area of the environment.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I understand that, but I asked whether you have a specific timeline or any plans to support the forest industry or other industries that are working towards that. Let's look at agriculture, especially. Agriculture accounts for 10% of our emissions and I don't see anything in your budget to support research or technology to look at better ways of sequestration.

Does your department have any plans to assist the different forestry divisions in our provinces and our agricultural sector across Canada, or are we leaving them on their own? Even industry is playing a very large role in doing the same. Are you going to play with the other partners?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

We already are. The Minister of Agriculture and I work very closely together. He's made a number of recent announcements about the role that agriculture is playing. Zero-till agriculture, climate resilient crops are part of a solution.

The minister of trade was just in China. When I was in China, I met with large real estate developers who were talking about taller wood buildings. I told them we have some wood for them. We went over there and were focused on talking to them about sustainable Canadian softwood lumber, because I think we need to be looking across files and coming up with creative solutions. I agree with you.

On the accounting piece, though, it is very important to get it right, not just in how Canada accounts for carbon sequestration and sinks but how the rest of the world does too, so that we do it in a defensible way that has the intended impact.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You're out of time. Sorry about that.

We have our last six minutes, which Peter Fonseca and Karen Ludwig are going to share. Go ahead.

May 1st, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you, Chair.

First, let me say what an honour it is to be at this extraordinary committee, as we've heard here today, on the day that the minister, the parliamentary secretary, and the key officials are here to present. It's like hitting the lottery.

Minister, given the significance of Canada's 150th, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada have both taken valuable steps to promote our country's ecological heritage while providing for its protection. Also important to our cultural heritage is our built heritage. Is this government considering legislation concerning built heritage in the maintenance of our commemorative integrity?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Sometimes we don't emphasize it enough that, as part of Parks Canada's portfolio, it's not just parks and marine conservation areas but also national historic sites. It's very important, as we look at Canada's 150th, how we protect heritage sites. I have learned first-hand that when it comes to, for example, the Rideau Canal or the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, we can be doing more to protect very important parts of our cultural heritage. Certainly more work could be done in this area. I hope your committee might consider working on it.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you, Minister.

I did want to mention blue-skying. We've had sustainable dreams come true, when we think about how we sort our garbage and our waste, and about getting more people onto public transit, and producing more energy through wind and solar. In your blue-skying, where do you see us going down the road?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Wow. You know what? I was just blue-skying this morning. I think we have an opportunity to reimagine how we live, work, and play, to do it in a way that is much more sustainable, a much more efficient use of our resources.

I was just in California, and it really excited me when I saw the opportunities, looking at what California is doing at the state level. I had a chance to meet with the governor. Beyond that, with the innovation that is going on in Silicon Valley, including with Canadian companies like CarbonCure, there's a huge opportunity.

Our leadership on climate change is being recognized, and this is a way we can attract investment and tackle really big problems like how we get communities off diesel, how we reimagine buildings. We need to be looking at that. We have a new building code that will be driving toward net-zero buildings. I think we can go faster, because there are jobs through investment in innovation that we can't even imagine.

That's what gets me excited. That's what keeps me up at night. It's looking at how we do things in a way that's going to attract investment in Canada, where we can be the model for the future, what the world will look like, and while we're doing it, create really good jobs.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you.

Karen.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Great. Thank you, Minister, for being here. I'm pleased to join this committee just for today.

I have two questions. My first one is specific to my riding of New Brunswick Southwest. In response to my colleague Will Amos, a good example of a joint park is the international park on Campobello Island. It's jointly held and governed by the U.S. government and the Canadian government.

As a region we've talked specifically about connecting Fundy National Park through the east coast greenway all the way through to Orlando, Florida. I'm wondering if you could speak to how we could make that connection.

The second question I have is on the government's plan to protect caribou in our country.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

This is blue-skying. We're always looking at ways we can partner. We know that, whether it's on species at risk or air or water, those go across boundaries and we need to be working with the U.S. government, also with states and municipalities. We have opportunities.

I'm happy to talk to you more. I'm looking forward to a trip I'll be doing out east this summer. We can have a good chat.

In terms of the caribou, Jonathan has been working extraordinarily hard on species at risk, including caribou. I led a recent meeting with provinces and territories, but I'm going to let Jonathan talk about some of the hard work he's been doing on a very tough file.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Thank you, Minister.

As you know, there was a report in 2012 with respect to caribou that required a report in October 2017. On this file the provinces are the lead, but of course the federal government has responsibilities under the species at risk legislation to ensure that biodiversity, and in this case, the caribou herds within Canada are being put on a sustainable footing on a go-forward basis.

The minister met recently with all the ministers in Canada. Caribou was one of the topics that was discussed at some significant length. I subsequently have travelled to pretty much every relevant jurisdiction with respect to this file to meet with provincial ministers and stakeholders to discuss the work they are doing to allow us to provide a report that will discuss the status of caribou in Canada and provide realistic pathways to ensure that the herds in Canada are put on a sustainable footing. This is very much a collaborative exercise with the provinces. The provinces have the lead, as I said, but the federal government certainly has a role to play and we are expending significant time, resources, and effort to ensure that we get a good outcome in October.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Do I have more time?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

No. I think you're 10 seconds away from the end of it.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you, thank you, and thank you. That's my 10 seconds, Chair.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Ms. Duncan, you have three minutes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you.

I wanted to follow up on the boreal woodland caribou. It's not quite as cheery as you present, even though I appreciate your effort, Mr. Wilkinson. I didn't know that you were engaged in that, and I look forward to following up.

Of course, the minister is being sued by CPAWS. Jim Prentice was sued by the environmental organizations and the first nations, and was found to have erred in law by failing to recognize first nations rights. It is not solely the provinces that have the power. I'm stunned to hear that. The minister has a clear, binding obligation under SARA, and your government certainly has obligations under first nations right and title. Would you like to elaborate on that?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I don't think we're diminishing our obligations under SARA but the provinces need to be providing plans about how they're going to protect the caribou. This is a tough file. We have always commented as a government that the environment and the economy go together. We need to protect species at risk and we need to have proper plans in place, but we need to do it in a way that is mindful of the economy and jobs. That's why we are taking the time. We are meeting with CPAWS. I've had many meetings with CPAWS. They have recognized that we are doing a lot of work but clearly more work needs to be done with the provinces as well as industry and other stakeholders.

Once again, I think Jonathan has done an amazing job so you can talk about this.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Yes.

Let me clarify. I am certainly not suggesting the federal government doesn't have a role. The reason we've been expending so much time and effort is to ensure that the provinces are moving forward and fulfilling their obligations. As you know very well, if they aren't doing that the federal government is required under SARA to get involved. There is active work.

I'm certainly not in any way diminishing the status of caribou in Canada. There are 51 herds that are subject to the report from 2012 and the vast majority are not in good condition. The work that needs to be done is developing range plans that relate to each of the specific herds and putting in place an action plan that we scientifically believe will enable the recovery of the species.