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

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Come on. There are millions of Canadians who have jobs. There are clear economic development opportunities. There are clearly pockets of poverty in this country: the Maritimes, for example, just lost 15,000 jobs because the government that you're a part of put in such a process for environmental assessment that the company just threw up its hands and decided not to proceed with the project. It's quite clear, and again, Ms. Brand, in your opening remarks basically you were saying we're going to have strategies for the strategies. I had an old farmer talk to me once, one of my constituents. I tried to explain to him some of the stuff that goes on in this place here. He kind of looked at me, puzzled, and he said, “Yes, but who's out there pounding in fence posts?” Again, my concern, in representing a rural, natural resources-based constituency is what happens on the ground.

It's quite clear that the....

I want to make another quick point. How much time do I have?

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have a little over two minutes.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Sure. I want to drill down specifically to something related to the minister's commitment that this act should respect the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. I'm going to ask a very specific question here related to the environmental impacts of alternative energy development. I have a report in front of me here that talks about bird and bat mortality from wind turbines. If we look at bats, which are extremely critical species, many of which are endangered, in Ontario there are some 41,000 bats killed every year by wind turbines. Three of these bat species happen to be on the SARA list of endangered species: the little brown myotis, the northern myotis, and the tri-coloured bat.

I'm very curious, Mr. Lucas, as to why your department is letting the Ontario government and the Ontario wind industry get away with the slaughter of species that are SARA-listed, in direct contravention of the Species at Risk Act.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Chair, once again I have a point of order. I don't understand the relevance to the FSDA in that question.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

So—

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

It's right here in paragraph 4 on page 4, that this act respects Canada's commitment to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity has very clear commitments: the protection of endangered species. My question is directly related. I don't care how offended the other side might be. This is a legitimate question to ask.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

I think that's fair. It's a legitimate question. It's just that you got into the specifics of a particular case, so it was starting to get a little odd. I understand your point. Let's see what the answer is.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Without specifics, a question is meaningless.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay, but it didn't wrap around to where you were getting it from, so thank you.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Maybe I can start. The first thing I would say is that, if there are questions with respect to policy of the government, the orientation of the government, then I'm happy to try to answer those. Those are not appropriate questions to direct to officials.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

What? Where's the act?

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

With respect to the issue that you raised in the first instance, the focus of this act is on improving the quality of life of Canadians. If you go through the act, that involves the integration of environmental, economic, and social factors. The government is committed to that, very much, and that involves looking at all of those issues.

With respect to your question on the Species at Risk Act, the government has been very clear that we are committed to the implementation of the Species at Risk Act in a substantive way. We are committed to biodiversity in Canada. That means you have to actually look at a range of different issues that are going on from an economic perspective, and ensure that they are compliant with the Species at Risk Act. We intend to do that.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have 14 seconds.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

The question I asked related to biological diversity. What you're telling me is that the minister misled us when she said that the FSDS respects our commitments to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which has clear statements on the protection of endangered species. Quite clearly, what she said in her remarks does not apply.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

I think you must be misconstruing. This government is committed to sustainable development. We are also committed to biological diversity. There is no inconsistency with those.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay, thank you very much.

Ms. Duncan, go ahead.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you, all, for still being here.

I look forward to the parliamentary secretary, the deputy, and Ms. Brand clarifying.

I had the privilege of attending the World Economic Forum in New York. That's attended by economists, investors, and banks, all of whom are clearly embracing sustainability. I am proud to wear the button of the 17 indicators.

It is my understanding that we have now moved on from Brundtland, from sustainable development, to the principle of sustainability based on these 17 factors. Can you clarify if that is Canada's understanding?

10:15 a.m.

Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Paula Brand

I think we elaborated on the definition of sustainable development in the act, which has been consistent with the previous act—perhaps not verbatim with Brundtland but consistent with Brundtland. I think we've heard the minister and the Prime Minister talk about Canada's commitment to the 17 sustainable development goals. As the minister said, implementation is going to be through action and how we are implementing the specific pieces of them. Some of those, five of the specific goals, have found their way into the current federal sustainable development strategy.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I don't think that's clarifying. I think our government would do well to actually clarify where we are on these principles, because I am not seeing them reflected in the bill that's before us.

I'll just move on. I had specific questions for Ms. Brand. It's great to finally have her here to talk to.

I'm wondering what role you actually play in ensuring compliance with the act. Do you communicate with other officials at your level, or do you have access to deputy ministers and senior officials in the Treasury Board, PCO, and so forth?

10:15 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of the Environment

Stephen Lucas

Perhaps I can just say, at the outset of that, that we are engaging at all levels, from the work Paula does with officials at her level, up to my level, as deputy minister, working with my colleagues—

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

The statute empowers only the official appointed, so that's a little confusing. You might want to revisit that, because it leaves that wide open. There were criticisms, when our committee reviewed it, that it was not satisfactory. Since 1990 and the cabinet directive, agency after agency and department after department has abjectly failed to deliver on these principles, so there was a call for this responsibility to be placed at a higher level—as Germany and Wales have done, and as the OECD has been recommending. That's why I'm asking that specific question.

Ms. Brand, as I understand it, the appointed official is at a DG level, and that raises the question as to what level of authority she has to hold all these other departments and agencies accountable.

November 2nd, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.

Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Paula Brand

Just to clarify, the act calls for the creation of a sustainable development office. I play a role in that office, but Mr. Lucas is the official head of that office in terms of the department.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

So, in fact, the deputy minister is that official.

10:15 a.m.

Director General, Sustainability Directorate, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment

Paula Brand

In terms of....

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I'm just asking for clarification, that's all. I'm not trying to put you on the spot. It's not really clear.

My understanding is that Ms. Brand is appointed to be that official.