Evidence of meeting #69 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 information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julie Gelfand  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General
Andrew Hayes  Principal, Office of the Auditor General
Tim Williams  Committee Researcher

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Sorry, we ran out of time there. My apologies.

Mr. Fisher, go ahead.

June 14th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Commissioner, for being here. I always enjoy your visits. There is so much in this report, and so much that you've brought forward today, that this may seem a little scattered. I've just been scribbling and scratching things out. I have a few questions that would probably have really quick answers, as well as things that would be more about clarification of things you've already touched on.

When did the order in council come forward?

4:55 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

It was the morning when the Auditor General tabled, which was May 16.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Would this order in council give you access to everything you need, have requested, and require?

4:55 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

That is our hope. That is the reason we sent a letter to the deputy minister of finance on Friday, to request that information.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Prior to that order in council, what was the department's obligation to your office, as the commissioner, and your legislative role?

5 p.m.

Principal, Office of the Auditor General

Andrew Hayes

Our powers to access information come from the Auditor General Act. It's a broadly worded access provision. The Auditor General's position is that this statutory provision gives us access to everything we should have for our audit purposes, including cabinet confidences.

Traditionally, orders in council have dealt with our access to certain kinds of cabinet confidences, and that has generally been sufficient for our audit purposes. In this audit, to get the information from Finance, it wasn't sufficient, which is why there was a new order in council.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

So this was an exception to the well-followed rule.

5 p.m.

Principal, Office of the Auditor General

Andrew Hayes

We encountered a situation where we were asking for information that wasn't covered by a list that was in previous orders in council.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Bossio asked you a question as I was scribbling things down, and I don't know if I got an answer. It might be something that is your opinion, and maybe you didn't feel like sharing it. Will we potentially not meet our G20 commitments, going the route we're going now, or will we absolutely not meet our G20 commitments?

5 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

I can't give you an opinion on that, because I don't know. Finance has not convinced us that they've done the proper analysis to understand the entire population.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

I'm trying to read all these tables in your report. It looks like the subsidies for oil sands have pretty much been phased out. Is that fairly accurate?

5 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

These are mostly tax measures. We have not looked at the non-tax measures. That's what Environment and Climate Change Canada is doing now. We may encounter more inefficient subsidies that are non-tax measures. We don't know.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Again, I understand Linda's comments across the way, but to the untrained eye it looks like there hasn't been any focus on reducing or removing any subsidies on the exploration side: mining exploration, LNG.

5 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

There is one new fossil fuel subsidy, which was introduced in 2015 and is supposed to sunset in 2025, and it is related to LNG.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Do you know when in 2015?

5 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

No. It just says 2025.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Are the fossil fuel subsidies that were removed between 2011 and 2016 the bulk of the fossil fuel subsidies?

5 p.m.

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

Julie Gelfand

Again, because we are not convinced and we don't know if the Department of Finance has looked at the entire population, we can't tell you that. We can tell you that these are the ones they've told us have been phased out, but we don't know if they've done a complete analysis, and they can't show it to us.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Okay. Got it.

You see? I told you I was really seeking a lot of points of clarification from all the great questions that were being asked.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Is it unusual—

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Excuse me?

He's just singing a Tom Jones song in my ear.

5 p.m.

A voice

That's Mike.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

That's now in the blues, “Hugs”.

5 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!