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

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte (King—Vaughan, Lib.)) Liberal Deb Schulte

We'll get started. Obviously, once the bells go, we'll continue for a bit, if we have unanimous consent around the table. We have votes at 4:15, so we'll go for a bit and then give ourselves about 20 minutes to get over there. We'll come right back as fast as we can so we can carry on.

I want to welcome our guests.

We have with us, from the Department of Health, Christine Norman, who is the director of the healthy environments and consumer safety branch, and James Van Loon, director general of the healthy environments and consumer safety branch; from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lori MacDonald, assistant deputy minister of the emergency management and programs branch; and, from the Department of the Environment, Eric Gagné, director general of the science and technology branch, and Ken Macdonald, executive director, national program and business development, Meteorological Service of Canada.

Where is Ken?

3:45 p.m.

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

Ken was not able to join us today.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

He was unable to join us?

3:45 p.m.

A voice

[Inaudible—Editor] via teleconference.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay. He is on teleconference, so we're going to hear him.

Also, from the National Research Council of Canada, we have Philip Rizcallah.

I'm seeing that he's not here either. I guess he's not coming.

3:45 p.m.

Robert Judge Director, Sectoral Policy, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

He's the one on the teleconference.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Oh, he's the one on the teleconference? Philip is on the teleconference, and he's the director of building regulations.

Thank you very much, Philip, for joining us.

From the Office of Infrastructure of Canada, we have Laura Di Paolo, director general, program integration; Robert Judge, director, sectoral policy; and Bogdan Makuc, director, program integration.

We have a lot of people here to share their information with us. Each group will have 10 minutes.

Would you like to start?

3:45 p.m.

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

Sure. Again, I am James Van Loon, director general of the consumer product safety directorate at Health Canada.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would also like to take this opportunity to again thank Ms. Gelfand and her team for their report last year. This report focused on the management of chemicals of concern in consumer products and cosmetics.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to outline some of the progress we have made over the last year in response to those recommendations.

First of all, I will just remind the committee that Health Canada co-administers the Chemicals Management Plan, or CMP, with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Through the CMP, Health Canada systematically reviews chemicals used in Canada to identify and manage chemicals of concern. The CMP is Canada's comprehensive and integrated strategy for identifying and taking action on potentially harmful substances.

When the CMP identifies substances of concern, the department uses the most appropriate legislative or regulatory program to address any risks facing Canadians from these substances. For example, in the cases of BPA in baby bottles and the flame retardant TCEP in foam products for children, both of which are prohibited, the department took actions pursuant to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act—my act.

Health Canada developed a comprehensive management response and action plan to address the recommendations made in the report. We have accomplished many of the actions outlined in that plan.

One of those things is that supporting consumers in making wise choices is an important part of our work.

We acted swiftly to address the recommendations to increase communications to Canadians about chemicals of concern in consumer products and cosmetics.

Health Canada has introduced new and updated social media web content on potential risks of products that you might buy via e-commerce and the hazards that can be associated with counterfeit products, such as batteries.

We have revised our information on how we regulate under the cosmetic regulations under the Food and Drugs Act, and how Health Canada treats marketing terms such as “hypoallergenic” or “fragrance-free” that are used by industry—all of which were recommendations.

The commissioner also recommended that other improvements be made regarding the resolution of cases concerning restricted or prohibited substances and the accuracy of the notifications about cosmetics.

In response, we've implemented a process to automate the identification of cosmetic notifications for ingredients that are on our cosmetics ingredient hot list, which is a list of substances that are prohibited or regulated in cosmetics. Today, substances that are prohibited get an automated screening on the very day the notification is received. We'll have all the hot list substances covered by that in the not-too-distant future.

We've also initiated a review of our processing and follow-up of all those cosmetic notifications to make sure that we have service standards and are monitoring our performance.

Finally, we've updated our cosmetic notification form to include information on the date of first sale in Canada of a cosmetic, which was another recommendation the commissioner made.

Our regulations regarding cosmetics also require companies to disclose all cosmetic ingredients on the label. This makes it easier for consumers to make informed decisions. The one exception to this, as the report pointed out, is that sub-ingredients of fragrances or perfumes do not have to be individually listed. To require this would put Canada out of alignment with every major regulator in the world.

Following a recommendation by the commissioner, though, this year we're carrying out a new kind of compliance and enforcement project in which we're going to look for substances that would be on our hot list and could potentially be hiding under terms such as “fragrance” or “perfume”.

The commissioner recommended that Health Canada also verify the extent of industry compliance with our incident reporting requirements for consumer products, so that's kind of moving off cosmetics and into the consumer products realm. We've initiated a new compliance and enforcement project to assess compliance of industry on that, basically by showing up at a company's place of business, looking at the kinds of complaints they've been getting from consumers, and making our own determinations about whether those should or should not have resulted in incident reports.

The commissioner also recommended that Health Canada should improve the verification of product recalls and the documentation of overall recall effectiveness. In response, Health Canada has updated its recall policy, standard operating procedures, and the documents that are given to our inspectors, i.e. all related materials. The updated recall guide for industry is undergoing final approvals and will soon be posted online.

In conclusion, we have worked hard over the past year to improve our communications to Canadians and to streamline processes so that we can react more quickly to address unsafe products. We have also added new types of inspections to look for potential products containing harmful chemistry.

I thank you for your time and would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much for addressing the concerns raised.

We're going to go through all your presentations and then go to questions, if you don't mind.

Who would like to go next?

Ms. MacDonald.

3:50 p.m.

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

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon, Madam Chair.

I am pleased to be here to speak on behalf of Public Safety Canada, with my colleagues from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Infrastructure Canada, Health Canada, and the National Research Council of Canada, to follow up on the spring 2016 report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Madam Chair, we recently held a federal-provincial-territorial meeting of ministers responsible for emergency management. At this meeting, we formalized a third edition of the emergency management framework for Canada and received a consensus on the outline for an emergency management strategy in order to fulfill the mandate commitment of our minister.

We are pleased to provide a progress report on the issues and commitments made in the 2016 report. The Auditor General's report included a number of important recommendations on how the federal government can be better positioned to support Canada's long-term mitigation efforts related to the effects of severe weather.

Now I'll highlight how Public Safety has advanced efforts on three key recommendations.

Overland flooding costs the Canadian economy more than any other hazard we face and is the single largest draw on the disaster financial assistance arrangements. In light of this, the Auditor General recommended that Public Safety work with key stakeholders to develop guidelines and standards for flood plain maps and encourage their consistent application in all provinces and territories.

A federal flood plain mapping framework was published on March 17, 2017, to provide technical information on flood plain mapping, outline roles and responsibilities, and provide an overview of past and present flood plain mapping activities in Canada. Public Safety Canada is working with Natural Resources Canada, provinces, territories, and flood plain mapping experts to develop additional documents to support flood plain mapping across Canada.

For example, federal hydrologic and hydraulic procedures are being developed to support practitioners in examining flood magnitudes and water surface elevations in specific environmental circumstances. It will also include information on how to incorporate climate change and coastal flooding considerations into these analyses.

Public Safety has also been working with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to help facilitate an overland flood insurance market for Canadians. Minister Goodale signalled his commitment to this issue by announcing a multi-stakeholder round table on flood insurance, to be held later this year.

The Auditor General's 2016 Report also recommended that Public Safety work with the federal partners to better understand the information needed to support their disaster risk reduction efforts, including severe weather.

Public Safety Canada has developed a flood- focused risk profile to strengthen our understanding of flood risks in Canada by examining historical events and annual flood risk climate change impacts and potential mitigation measures.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much. We appreciate that. It was very fast.

Next up is Ms. Di Paolo.

3:55 p.m.

Laura Di Paolo Director General, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Thank you for having us here to speak before you.

I am joined today by Robert Judge, director of sectoral policy at Infrastructure Canada, and Bogdan Makuc, director of program integration.

We're here today to speak to you about Infrastructure Canada's progress in addressing the recommendations made in chapter one on federal support for environmentally sustainable infrastructure.

This chapter of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's 2016 Spring Report examined federal municipal infrastructure programs that are intended, among other objectives, to improve the environmental performance and sustainability of Canadian communities.

At the time the report was issued, Infrastructure Canada agreed with all of the recommendations made by the commissioner. I would like to briefly review the progress we've made in response to the recommendations.

With respect to performance measurement for the gas tax fund, in January of this year the department held a gas tax fund national workshop that brought together all partners responsible for implementing the gas tax fund. Part of the conversation included discussions around options to improve the GTF reporting. We agreed to work with our signatories to consult further on how to improve the indicators collected for the selected outcomes.

For the longer term, the department will also align the approach to performance measurement and reporting for the Gas Tax Fund with the new suite of outcomes-based programs of the Investing in Canada Plan launched in 2016 and further expanded in budget 2017.

Infrastructure Canada also committed to improve data on infrastructure. Over the past year, we've worked with Statistics Canada to develop the Canada core public infrastructure survey, which is launching this summer. The survey will provide a national picture of the current state and performance of infrastructure across Canada and will be the first national survey regarding core public infrastructure: Canada's roads and bridges, and water, waste-water, and public transit infrastructure.

We are working with other federal departments, provinces and territories to determine how best to integrate climate change mitigation and resilience considerations in our infrastructure investments.

These requirements will be incorporated into the upcoming integrated bilateral agreements with provinces and territories.

We are also working closely with our partners at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, who will be delivering a $50-million municipal asset management program and a $75-million “municipalities for climate innovation” program. These are both five-year programs and, respectively, will support municipalities in their adoption of good practices in asset management and in adapting to the impacts of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As we have demonstrated with our new initiatives—the FCM-delivered programs, and the Core Public Infrastructure Survey—Infrastructure Canada recognizes and supports the importance of innovation, particularly in the context of ensuring the environmental and financial sustainability of infrastructure.

As identified in budget 2017, phase two of the federal government's infrastructure plan signalled that the federal government will work with partners over the next year to examine new innovative financing mechanisms to increase the long-term affordability and sustainability of infrastructure in Canada.

Two of these new innovative financing mechanisms include the Canada infrastructure bank and the smart cities challenge. Legislation to establish the bank has been tabled in Parliament, and the Prime Minister introduced the smart cities challenge at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference at the beginning of June.

The department is looking forward to having more information on both of these initiatives in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, the department will continue to examine its own programming for opportunities that will maximize innovative mechanisms for program delivery and project funding. It will also aim to better support the use of state-of-the-art infrastructure technology to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of existing assets.

Infrastructure is the backbone of our communities, big or small, and our department is committed to implementing the Government of Canada's long-term plan to support the resilient and sustainable infrastructure that is at their core.

Thank you for inviting us to speak with you today.

My colleagues and I will be happy to respond to any questions.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you.

We still have not had bells, so we're doing well.

We can get started with questions. Who is up first?

Mr. Amos, go ahead.

4 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all of our witnesses. This is really appreciated.

Given the recent circumstances of flooding in my riding—north, west, and south—I'm particularly interested in some of the measures taken to augment and to think more deeply about disaster relief and flood management.

I'll start with a general question for Ms. MacDonald. What are some of the lessons the department has drawn pursuant to the recent flooding in Quebec?

4 p.m.

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

Lori MacDonald

Thank you for your question.

The situation in both Ontario and Quebec, and certainly in B.C. and New Brunswick, has been very tragic in terms of the flooding we've seen. Approximately 245 communities or districts have been affected.

One of the things that came out very clearly in the beginning is that there's a gap between what people believe they want to do in a crisis situation and what they actually do. An example would be that people want to be involved in terms of being prepared and being able to mitigate against disasters, but in fact do very little about it when it is actually happening to them.

One of the things we identified very quickly is that we really need to ramp up our awareness on getting ready for emergencies and what to do in emergencies. Earlier this year, we had advanced a “Flood Ready” campaign to try to educate people with respect to what to do in disaster situations and how to prepare for that, but in fact we've seen that we need to do a lot more in that area, so education is first and foremost.

The second thing is really advancing that conversation around a residential flood insurance market in terms of how most people, when they call after a flooding situation, are unaware that they don't actually have coverage. That traumatizes them further, so that they're much more in a place of “what does this really mean to me?” and the losses they experience in terms of their home.

Finally, we work with other government departments—Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Infrastructure Canada—with respect to what things we need to put in place purely from a mitigative perspective. We need to advance much further in terms of mitigation in our country, regardless of which province the flooding happens in.

4 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

To follow up on that, given that so many Canadians are unaware of their lack of coverage in terms of overland flood insurance, is it fair to say that a lack of action on climate change is ultimately costing Canadians in the form of private mechanisms, either through catastrophic costs or payment for new insurance coverage above and beyond the typical housing insurance they would get?

4 p.m.

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

Lori MacDonald

One of the things we see is that severe weather and climate change are having a significant impact both on our weather patterns and on disasters, both flooding and fire, as in the example that we saw in Fort McMurray last year.

We know that Canada is the only G7 country that does not have residential flood insurance, so the disaster financial assistance arrangements become the default insurers of choice, which is having a significant financial impact on the economy and at the same time doesn't situate people to be prepared and ready to take on their own responsibilities in that regard.

We have to work harder with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the broader industry to create those conditions to implement a residential flood insurance market for Canada, so that we can have a positive impact on the economy but actually help and prepare people to be ready to respond in disaster situations from a financial perspective.

4 p.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you for that.

My next question is directed to Ms. Di Paolo. I want to dig into the municipal asset management fund being delivered by the FCM, but with federal investment.

I think it is a given that rural municipalities do much less in the way of municipal asset management than do major urban centres. I wonder if you can speak to how the FCM is—or is not—being directed to emphasize to the smaller municipalities that tend not to have the capacity to manage their assets appropriately to do just that.

4:05 p.m.

Director General, Program Integration, Office of Infrastructure of Canada

Laura Di Paolo

Thank you for your question.

The municipal asset management program that will be delivered by the FCM is really geared toward supporting the smaller rural communities, because we have realized that there is a gap in their abilities and their capacity, really, for infrastructure asset management planning. Over the past year, the FCM has done a lot of consultations and engagement to review what the needs and gaps are.

We do see a difference across the country as well. We see provinces—such as Ontario—that have legislated requirements for asset management planning in the province. That has made a significant advancement for us in management in the province. British Columbia is also quite strong on the asset management side, but we see quite a range in the other provinces in terms of their abilities, both in that kind of urban/rural area where you see a difference in capacity and across the country.

The FCM will be engaging further with provincial and territorial associations to provide on-the-ground support, actual training, and awareness to increase the capacity of these smaller communities. The program also includes some support for actual staffing around asset management to get in-house support for these smaller communities.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I have to cut you off there, because we only have six minutes for each questioner.

To be helpful, when I hold up the yellow card, it means you have one minute. When I hold up the red card, it means that you're out of time, so please wrap up your thought there. That gives everybody a chance.

Mr. Shields.

June 19th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Being from Alberta in a rural/urban municipality, I'll say that we received the two years...we went through and the mapping was done. The infrastructure inventory was done totally in Alberta, for both rural and urban. I'm not sure where yours is, but I know where ours is because we did it.

Going to the definition of flooding, you said “overland”. Can you define what “overland flooding” means to you?

4:05 p.m.

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

Lori MacDonald

In the context of a residential flood insurance market? Is that the question?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Well, there are two kinds of overland flooding. They're very different and are handled very differently by insurance or non-insurance. One is moving water, and another is water that comes down and overland. I'm looking for your definition.

4:05 p.m.

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

Lori MacDonald

When I'm talking about overland flooding, I'm talking about those things that would normally occur, such as flooding in the situations that we just saw in Ontario and Quebec, where water pours in through doors and windows—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Okay. Are you talking about a river or stream situation?