Evidence of meeting #82 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 strategy.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Stephen Lucas  Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment
Paula Brand  Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I want to thank the member for that point, because it's actually conservative principle that you want to be more efficient in how you extract resources. Efficiency includes efficiency in terms of the environmental performance, because that's just smart.

That's what I hear when I meet with energy companies. They are always looking at how they can improve, how they can do things better, and how they can do things in a cleaner and more efficient way. That relates to price on pollution, which is also a conservative principle. You want to put a price on pollution, and the most efficient way to reduce emissions and to move to a cleaner future is what everyone wants.

I certainly hear that when I'm in the energy sector. I hear that from farmers. I hear that from everyone. Everyone understands that our goal is to be more efficient, our goal is to ensure that we reduce emissions, and our goal is to increase innovation, which is certainly what we are seeing as we move to a cleaner future, and ultimately our goal is to ensure that we have a sustainable planet for our kids and grandkids.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Amos.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

Minister, I would like to get to the theme of objectives. The committee recommended in its report that broad objectives be established for sustainable development. One reason was that we looked at the draft sustainable development strategy and we were surprised, to say the least, that the strategy had these long-term aspirational goals that included freshwater and oceans and taking action on climate change. So that was an empty shell in terms of what we thought of as long-term objectives, but I don't find that the bill as proposed goes far enough and provides objectives in terms of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, positioning Canada as a leader in clean tech, and setting out objectives around the ability for all Canadians to have clean air and clean water.

Could you explore that theme a bit, and would you be willing to consider broad objectives as a component of this legislative initiative?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

The proposed principles for inclusion in the bill are very broad. They certainly do not exclude any of the areas you were talking about. Once again, I think it's always hard to be specific about particular principles. It could be an extremely long list, but it also could be a list that becomes non-inclusive of new principles. I think it's always a balance between implementing broad principles, which can include new areas or areas you're already working on, and being so prescriptive that you exclude other areas.

Since my deputy is here, and we're so lucky to have him, I'm going to ask him to say a few words.

9:35 a.m.

Stephen Lucas Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Building on what Minister McKenna noted, against the framework of the goals she noted, within the three-year individual departmental SD strategies, there is an opportunity to speak to specific concrete actions through which the goals and commitments the country has made, including the international environmental obligations, are being advanced. With the annual reporting, Parliament and this committee will have an opportunity to review that progress.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

William Amos Liberal Pontiac, QC

This is important. It's about getting the federal house in order while demonstrating to other provinces how a larger government is able to drive sustainability outcomes. This is effectively the biggest corporate entity in the country. What discussions have you had with other provinces, as part of our overall climate objectives, about changing the way governments make purchases and so on?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I'm meeting with provinces and territories tonight, so we will be continuing that conversation. I think that's an excellent point. We all need to be looking at how we procure in particular, because that can be a huge driver of economic opportunity and clean growth.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you.

Mr. Zimmer, welcome to the table. You're up.

November 2nd, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for this opportunity.

In your speech, as has been noted by my colleagues on this side, you mentioned sustainability. You said we should be recognizing that sustainability goes beyond the environment. Recently, however, we heard from the Premier of the Northwest Territories that he has a problem with the Liberal version of sustainability. This is a Liberal MLA, who I think has ideals similar to those of your government. He said that:

northerners, through their democratically elected government, need to have the power to determine their own fates and the practice of decisions being made by bureaucrats and governments in Ottawa must come to an end. Decisions about the North should be made in the North. The unilateral decision by the federal government,

—that's you—

made without consultation, to impose a moratorium on arctic offshore oil and gas development is but one example of our economic self-determination being thwarted by Ottawa.

Please comment.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I certainly agree that we need to be working with the provinces and territories. We can't move to a cleaner future on our own. There's only so much the federal government can do, and provinces are the ones that often have the tools at their disposal to move to a cleaner future.

I'm meeting with the provinces and territories today. It's the Canadian Council for Ministers of the Environment, and we will be talking about issues such as how we move to a cleaner future and how we implement the made-in-Canada plan on climate change.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

With respect, Minister, you've already had the moratorium in place and now you're going to go and talk to territories and governments. Wouldn't it have been proactive to do that before?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

We've had many conversations with provinces and territories in the negotiation of the made-in-Canada climate plan. My deputy, my chief of staff, my entire team and I were back and forth with each province, travelling and doing consultations.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Minister, you and I both know that a conversation involves both listening and talking. Somebody's talking, and someone should actually listen to what the person on the other side has to say and then act on what they're proposing. A moratorium across the north, unilaterally imposed, is obviously going to dramatically affect first nations communities in a negative way. These communities are already hard hit economically, and now you hit them again with a plan for sustainable development.

We've heard you talk and talk, but the reality on the ground is that people are going to go without jobs. The premier said yesterday that the best social program is a job. You've just taken jobs away from the north.

Please respond.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

I was very pleased that we had the Premier of the Northwest Territories standing up with the Prime Minister, with provinces and territories, to sign on our climate plan. They agreed to our climate plan. We had worked together and we're going to continue to work together as we implement it.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

A moratorium across the north shuts down 40% of their economy. You just shut down almost a half of their economy in the North.

I just bring it back to something that always troubles me. Usually leadership involves your doing something yourself that you believe in. I bet you fly more than I do, and I fly a lot. I think a lot of Canadians are wondering how you can talk a big game. We've seen Hollywood stars talk about this too. They talk a big game for everybody else, but do differently themselves.

Can you respond?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Yes, unfortunately I have to travel to meetings that sometimes require me to be there in person, including in the Northwest Territories. When I work with indigenous peoples, I need to meet with them directly. That is critically important so that I can understand them. There are some things that you simply can't do by conference call. I try to do conference calls. I buy carbon offsets, but there are times when.... For example, in Paris, when we were negotiating the Paris agreement, we couldn't do that by conference call.

In terms of working with indigenous peoples—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Excuse me, Minister.

Certainly efficiencies could be found with your ministry when you fly. I think what we're all looking for, a more practical position for everybody, is sustainable development in terms of responsible resource development. We know we're going to need to use it. The government has said you're supporting pipelines, and we've heard that. We've not seen pipelines move forward. We have a Kinder Morgan project that is supposed to be being built as we speak.

I expect to see the leadership. When I see you make the announcement that it is approved, I expect leadership in seeing that it's actually built. It's one thing we've heard a lot of talk about, that you're pro sustainable resource development. Prove it.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Catherine McKenna Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Let's just be clear on the difference between the role of government and the role of proponents. Government approves projects, or doesn't. It does a proper review and then it's up to proponents. But we've been clear. The environment and the economy go together. We're in a transition to a low-carbon future. We've approved pipelines. We're also moving forward to ensure that we have the investment to move to a lower carbon future.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Can I just ask one more question before we're done?

The Northern Gateway pipeline was actually approved by the NEB with a certain number of conditions.

Why would a government disallow a project that had been approved by the NEB with conditions—

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

On a point of order, Madam Chair, that is way outside the scope of why the minister has been invited.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

It's talking about sustainable development.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

No, we're talking about a specific bill. She's here today to speak to a specific bill, and now you're bringing up issues that are completely unrelated.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

I'm referring to—

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

That's my point of order, Madam Chair.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I hear your point of order.

Hold on a minute so I can make a ruling on the point of order.

You are straying a little beyond where we were with this committee. We're supposed to be looking at the bill, and you were talking about sustainable development but you were really drilling down on a specific. You have 30 seconds or less to bring it around to something more generic rather than a specific project.

Thank you.