Evidence of meeting #70 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 municipalities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Eric Gagné  Director General, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment
Robert Judge  Director, Sectoral Policy, Office of Infrastructure of Canada
James Van Loon  Director General, Consumer Product Safety Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health
Lori MacDonald  Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Laura Di Paolo  Director General, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada
Bogdan Makuc  Director, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada
Philip Rizcallah  Director, Building Regulations, National Research Council of Canada
Tim Williams  Committee Researcher

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Okay.

It would be my understanding that since that is Environment Canada's main document on climate, these would begin to be reported together. Could I just leave that comment with you? I've had many discussions with the minister's office and it remains very puzzling to me.

There are all of these funds and there doesn't appear to be any money being released. I'm hearing from at least my province that they're ready for the dollars. We have problems with flood mitigation. We want to do energy efficiency. Maybe at some point we could have somebody here in the fall to actually explain where all these funds are and which department is responsible. I know that the environment minister tends to be the one they put out as a spokesperson, and sometimes Mr. Carr, but it remains quite confusing to the public out there in terms of who is actually in control of these funds.

I have a few more minutes, and I have a specific question.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have one minute.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

It's about northern infrastructure. If there's $20 billion for green infrastructure and a certain amount of money generally for infrastructure.... I know that it's extremely expensive to do work in the north. We're already seeing housing and roads sinking with melting permafrost. We also have the issue of the melting ice roads. I'm wondering if you're starting to think of a separate budget allocation for just the northern isolated communities.

4:15 p.m.

Director, Sectoral Policy, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Robert Judge

Under the integrated bilateral agreements that are going to be negotiated with provinces and territories, this is one of the main funding mechanisms for the next phase of the investing in Canada plan. There is a stream in there for rural and northern communities. That will help with a number of projects. There will also be a national program. A new national program that's being established is the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund. That's a $2-billion fund.

Both of these mechanisms should be in place by the end of this fiscal year. That disaster mitigation and adaptation fund will help with some of the larger-scale projects that might be bigger than some of the small community elements.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

If—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

No. Hang on. Nice try. You have a bit of time at the end to try that one.

Mr. Fisher.

June 19th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you, folks, for being here today. I appreciate the information you're providing us.

I want to talk to Ms. Di Paolo in regard to the gas tax fund and, to a lesser extent maybe, to Mr. Gagné, about the green municipal fund, at least as that pertains to environmental projects.

This government talks an awful lot about the importance of municipalities determining what the priorities are for those small on-the-ground communities. We've talked about that a lot. As a councillor, I recall that provinces and the federal government would come in and determine which projects were going to go forward, which might have looked like the shiniest penny in that community, so I love the fact that we've put the municipalities, through FCM, at the forefront of what is important and what projects should go ahead. We're making sure that they're at the table.

The commissioner has stated that she felt that the gas tax was inadequately managed—I believe those are the words she used in the report—and that there were some issues with FCM environmental projects. I'm interested in finding out specifically how you're working with municipalities and with the FCM to ensure that their priorities actually get built. You mentioned a national workshop. I'm curious as to the makeup of that workshop. Who's at the table?

Is that just one thing that you're going to do? Is that part of the your central focus on how you continue to work with municipalities through the FCM?

I'm not sure, Eric, if there's an actual question in there for you or not.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Laura Di Paolo

I can go ahead. Thank you for your question and your comments.

The gas tax fund, at its core, is a transfer payment. We deliver the transfer payment through provinces and territories, and then it's delivered to municipalities—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Yes.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Laura Di Paolo

—so every municipality in Canada receives their share of the fund. They can use 100% of that funding to fund the projects that they want to bring forward as long as they meet some of the eligibility criteria, but it is very much focused on the municipal or community priorities to be funded.

With respect to the workshop, that's where we're working with our signatory partners—the provinces and territories—to work on how we can report better and also how we can facilitate delivery of the fund. That's more a process of working through the agreement to do that.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Okay. It's transferred to the provinces to administer the project, but in the past and up until recently the provinces have been choosing the projects. My question is, how are we ensuring that the municipalities' priorities are coming through? Do we have a role in that so we can ensure the provinces aren't choosing the projects that are of importance to them and then saying to the municipalities that those are the projects they're going to get their gas tax funding for?

For instance, the HRM gets $25 million a year. The province comes forward and says: “Our contribution to this project is going to be $8 million. Are you in? We're going to use that $8 million from the gas tax.” In my experience, that's then, for the most part, a provincial priority, and the municipality says, “We'll be in on sharing that because we need that infrastructure.”

4:20 p.m.

Director, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Bogdan Makuc

The approach varies across jurisdictions. In certain provinces and territories, the funds flow directly to municipalities and they have the full say in how projects are selected. There are certain jurisdictions, perhaps, where there is a bit more of a discussion with the provinces, but those approaches are outlined in the agreements that we sign with provinces and territories.

In two cases, we do actually have agreements: in Ontario, with the Association of Municipalities, which actually manages it—it's not the province that manages the agreement—and in B.C., with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

Under the gas tax fund, all the funding goes straight through to the municipalities. They have the choice to identify the projects that they want to spend the funding on. As to how that relationship works with the provinces—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Yes.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Bogdan Makuc

—that's between the provinces and municipalities. We are working with the signatories and ensure that the funds get transferred through.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Okay.

Eric, on the green municipal fund, that's purely through the FCM and right straight to municipalities?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Eric Gagné

That's correct. Municipalities bring forward their proposals. The green municipal fund has a council that reviews the criteria to make sure that we're going to be innovative, that technologies are being implemented in those municipalities, and that there are going to be environmental benefits.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

That would be like the solar city program in Halifax?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Science and Technology Branch, Department of the Environment

Eric Gagné

That's right. That's why the FCM works directly with the municipalities.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

That's good.

I have a few moments, Mr. Van Loon. What actions has Health Canada taken? You spoke a little about social media, but to communicate to consumers about cosmetics regulation.... I mean, we all work hard on social media, but we reach 8%, 9%, or 10% of the population with social media. What else is tested? What else is planned? What are you envisioning?

Also, is there a plan for random testing of products to find these things, or are you looking at things that are complaint driven?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Consumer Product Safety Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health

James Van Loon

Yes. We've updated our web page to make it clearer what we do. The recommendations of the commissioner were along the lines that we should tell people what we don't do. As a regulator, I'd want to temper that a bit so as to not be equipping people with all the stuff that we're not going to do.

We do risk-based, targeted sampling. You're asking what we are doing in terms of random sampling in the marketplace. This is valid, not just for cosmetics but also for consumer products. We can't randomly sample in the marketplace. If you take a large, big-box retailer that has 100,000 or 150,000 SKUs, we're not randomly sampling from that.

We point our compliance and enforcement resources in places where we believe there's a high probability of non-compliance and also a high probability of that non-compliance being something dangerous. Typically, all of our rules are on things we think are dangerous.

Where we're really trying to innovate these days, though, is on not spending our time walking into a store or warehouse or whatever and grabbing 20 or 50 or 100 whatever it is—products—and sending them off to the lab for an exam, out of the hundreds of thousands of things that might be there. We are really spending our compliance and enforcement resources on talking to companies about the systems they have in place, how they mitigate risk for consumers up and down the supply chain, how they identify emerging risks, and how they let us know about those. Then, where we see a strong system, we'll set it aside or reduce the amount of sampling that we would do, while for others we'll increase the amount, as they are a higher-risk entity.

That's the kind of stuff we're trying to work on. It's a bit different—consumer products and cosmetics—but that's the overall strategy: how do we find the risky places where we should be investing our resources?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay. I have to cut that off. I let it run a bit because I think everybody was very interested in your answer—

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Consumer Product Safety Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health

James Van Loon

I wasn't looking either—

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

That's okay. That's my job.

Mr. Eglinski.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I'd like to thank everybody for coming out this afternoon.

I had a bunch of questions written down here, but then Will started off with flooding, and that kind of drew my attention to a few things—past experiences and the like.

Lori, you talked about your flood ready program that was initiated this year as a result of the audit that was done. I'm very interested. You stated that you've met with the provinces and municipalities and you're looking at the overall picture and waiting for results back. Through the questioning from Mr. Shields, it's clear we really don't have a time frame.

What I'm curious about is this. When you met with the provinces and municipalities, were discussions on—I'm just going to throw out a random number—the probably one thousand areas in Canada that are built up in flood plains. They've already been built and were allowed by municipalities due to the ignorance of the times, due to not knowing what the consequences might be. Also, no one knew about global warming.

Now, we have probably hundreds of thousands of homes in Canada, in many major centres, from sea to sea to sea, that people may not be able to get insurance for, because they already know they're in a flood plain. Is there any long-term plan for looking at those areas? Are finances being put aside to try to mitigate the risks that are there, with a big flood wall or whatever? I'm wondering if that was discussed?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Emergency Management and Programs Branch, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Lori MacDonald

Thank you for your question.

We have a very interesting challenge in that regard, because the reality is that the vast majority of Canadian cities are actually built on flood plains. It's not just an issue for one or two provinces. It's an issue for pretty much everybody, except for maybe Nunavut—