Evidence of meeting #2 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was regulations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hilary Geller  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of the Environment
Jacqueline Gonçalves  Director General, Science and Risk Assessment, Department of the Environment
Matt Jones  Assistant Deputy Minister, Pan-Canadian Framework Implementation Office, Department of the Environment
Diane Campbell  Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Canada, Department of the Environment
Sue Milburn-Hopwood  Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment
Helen Ryan  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment
Anne-Marie Pelletier  Chief Enforcement Officer, Enforcement Branch, Department of the Environment
Judy Meltzer  Director General, Carbon Pricing Bureau, Department of the Environment
Catherine Stewart  Director General, Climate Change International and Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Department of the Environment
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Alexandre Roger

9:25 a.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment

Helen Ryan

To unearth that was very complex. We put in place a new testing program and started to see these odd results. We amassed a body of evidence, including the information that was coming from the U.S. EPA and CARB as well. We had evidence to support this, working in collaboration with our U.S. colleagues. That information took time because we actually had to put in place new testing provisions.

The other important consideration that differs between Canada and the United States is that the majority of our vehicles are sold concurrently in the United States, and to ease the administrative burden of our industry, we allow them to use the certificates that are issued by the United States. The United States has a body of evidence that we don't have. This allows them to move more quickly in some elements. We relied on that, developed our case, and transferred it over to our colleagues in enforcement.

I'll turn it back to you.

February 20th, 2020 / 9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Okay. If we could hold on that, that would be great. That gives me a flavour for how we go back and forth on that. Thank you.

I have two other questions I want to get to, and we only have a few more minutes.

Last week, I held a climate change town hall in Guelph. I had our member of provincial Parliament there on a panel with me, as well as our mayor. All levels of government are working together on climate change initiatives.

One of the topics that came out over and over again was transportation. Guelph has recently been awarded funding for electric buses—we have 65 buses coming to Guelph over a period of time. We're looking at how to mitigate the pollution from vehicles on greenhouse gas emissions and how to coordinate across your department in terms of vehicle emissions—things like buses, transit fleets and city fleets, as well as business fleets.

9:25 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Pan-Canadian Framework Implementation Office, Department of the Environment

Matt Jones

In terms of the transportation sector, as is the case with many aspects of climate change, there are many players there.

Certainly, infrastructure funding—and green infrastructure, specifically—is a critical piece of the puzzle, as electric buses and other more sustainable modes of transport are eligible through multiple streams of the investing in Canada plan. The low-carbon economy fund has made investments through provincial programs to top up existing programs, touching on the transport sector in some cases.

Of course, we have our vehicle regulations and other aspects that we manage as a department, and Transport Canada is a key player in all aspects of—

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

That might be something for us to do further investigation on in terms of how we coordinate between orders of government.

Finally, I was at the climate change research centre up at PEARL in the Arctic, where we co-locate with Environment Canada and are investing in climate change research. What is the importance of coordinating Environment Canada's work with our research community?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Please give a quick answer.

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Science and Risk Assessment, Department of the Environment

Jacqueline Gonçalves

We're very networked. All of our scientists who work on a particular area know each other and work quite well together. Collaboration is key to our investigations.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Thank you very much.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Madame Pauzé.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you all for your presentations.

Ms. Campbell, I am one of the 50 million people who consult Environment Canada to find out what the weather conditions are. I don't do it only to learn what the weather will be like tomorrow; I also look at the comparative data. I find that very interesting.

Mr. Jones, you say there is a committee on climate change the provinces and territories are involved in. I am from Quebec and would like to know with whom you collaborate at the provincial level. Do you work with people from Quebec's environment and climate change department and with the responsible ministers?

9:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Pan-Canadian Framework Implementation Office, Department of the Environment

Matt Jones

Thank you for your question.

We work in a team with all our provincial and territorial counterparts, especially with representatives from environment ministries. There are a few committees within our organization, including a committee that brings together Canadian ministers of the environment. There is also a committee on climate change, most of whose members are assistant deputy ministers at environment ministries. Those committees exist at every level. They bring together technicians and experts, but also ministers and deputy ministers.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Okay, thank you.

I would like to check some data I heard earlier. I would really like to know the exact figures. I believe it was Ms. Milburn-Hopwood who talked about it.

Regarding nature, conservation and the restoration of natural habitats, you said that 70% of areas should have been protected by 2020. I assume we are talking about the end of 2020. I don't understand what areas you are talking about.

9:30 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

Thank you for your question.

It's 17% of the land mass of Canada.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Okay, now I understand.

Ms. Ryan, I would like to ask you a question about hazardous waste. I think another organization handles nuclear waste, but I would like to know whether your department's regulations on hazardous waste cover nuclear waste, as well as the sites contaminated by it.

9:30 a.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment

Helen Ryan

We are not responsible for nuclear waste sites. They are regulated by another organization. So that is not part of our portfolio.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Ms. Ryan, your overview talks about regulating the import and export of substances that present a risk to the environment and/or human life or health. I am very interested in the impact of pollution on health.

Could you suggest a specific document on that issue to me?

9:30 a.m.

Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment

Helen Ryan

I will let Ms. Gonçalves answer your question, since environmental assessments are carried out at the Science and Technology Branch, in collaboration with Health Canada.

9:30 a.m.

Director General, Science and Risk Assessment, Department of the Environment

Jacqueline Gonçalves

Every year, we publish an annual report on the chemicals management plan. It contains a lot of information, including the substances we have assessed and the types of measures that will be implemented, including regulations. It would be a good source of information. In addition, if you want to ask specific questions, it would be our pleasure to answer them.

9:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

My next question is very specific. It concerns the Outaouais region in particular.

Ms. Pelletier, you have perhaps heard about the chronic wasting disease in cervids. That disease is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly referred to as the mad cow disease, but it affects deer. It spreads very easily.

Could you tell me where I could get more information on this?

9:35 a.m.

Chief Enforcement Officer, Enforcement Branch, Department of the Environment

Anne-Marie Pelletier

From the Canada Food Inspection Agency.

9:35 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment

Sue Milburn-Hopwood

The responsibility for deer is a responsibility of the provincial governments.

However, we do have some responsibilities in government.

9:35 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

So the responsibility is shared. Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you very much, Ms. Pauzé.

Madam Collins.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

First, thanks so much for your time and for your insightful presentations. I want to follow up on a couple of questions that have already been asked.

It was mentioned, on the pollution side, that the enforcement is predominantly targeted at industry, whereas I think it was more aimed at individuals on the wildlife protection or conservation side.

In the fall of 2018, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development audited the government's performance of controlling toxic substances under CEPA and identified several weaknesses in the enforcement.

One example was that 70% of the prosecutions were of dry cleaners, which are often small businesses and are less able to defend themselves in court. In addition to that, there was really no documented evidence that the substance presented a higher risk to human health and the environment than other substances—especially in the context of Volkswagen, a very large corporation having potentially huge impacts on human health.

I'm curious about that kind of gap or other gaps that you see in the enforcement of CEPA and what's happening on that front.

9:35 a.m.

Chief Enforcement Officer, Enforcement Branch, Department of the Environment

Anne-Marie Pelletier

Thank you for your question.

We took these gaps very seriously. The enforcement branch is shifting how we're assessing risk. We are in the midst, in our first year, of developing a methodology where we're going to be identifying, with all the regulations that we have, which sectors are at higher risk for the environment. With that, it's going to be shifting our enforcement activities from knowing where to target to knowing where the highest risk is, so we look at areas that may not be the dry cleaner. It may be other areas where we know the risk is higher. We may not have all the information today. We may be going collecting. We may be going in areas that we are not predominantly going to. It's human nature to go where we know there is non-compliance, so we're shifting that.

I cannot give you any examples right now, because we are really in the middle of doing this. We are meeting with provinces and territories next week to share our methodology so we can work collaboratively, and we're looking at doing some joint planning as well.

This risk assessment-based approach is really going to be addressing the report and the gaps that were in the recommendations.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Can you flesh out a few of the other gaps beyond the one I mentioned?