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Evidence of meeting #3 for Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-38 in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was environmental.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
Fred Denning  President, The British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd.
David Schindler  Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual
Terry Quinney  Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
William Amos  Director, University of Ottawa - Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, Ecojustice Canada
Ron Bonnett  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Kevin Obermeyer  President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority
Scott Vaughan  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
Clarence T. Jules  Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

9:50 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

I would absolutely say it's good progress. We've looked very closely at what the government released in March 2011 and July 2011, and the six different chapters and the plan they've announced are significant, rigorous, robust, and peer-reviewed. We're looking forward now to its implementation.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you.

In your comments, you also talked about how the subcommittee might want to identify the assessment of cumulative effects. In light of substitution and equivalency, are you aware of some of the land use planning work that has happened in the province of Alberta and other jurisdictions around the country?

9:50 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

I am, and I think what the Province of Alberta is doing on regional planning and land use planning is very important. We don't have the mandate to audit what the provinces are doing.

If I may, though, it was a very simple point, and it was simply that one of the issues that led to the government announcing its 2011 plan to revamp the monitoring system was because there were different jurisdictions putting in different data sets and different points. One of the questions in the regulations is that if substitution and equivalency are going to move to the provinces, it would be important at the outset to make sure the data can talk to each other.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

You are aware of some of the work that's being done. Acknowledging that it's out of scope of some of your research, would you say that cumulative impacts are being put into land use planning frameworks at a provincial level?

9:50 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

Absolutely. Yes.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Great. Thank you.

Mr. Obermeyer, you made a comment. I think it was something akin to, “We've never had an oil spill with a pilot on board.”

Can you expand on that? I maybe misheard you, and I wanted to clarify that a bit.

9:50 p.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

Absolutely. First of all, we've been handling tankers for 50 years and we've had no incidents with tankers at all. The only spill we had was one that was purely accidental. There was a bolt sticking out of the dock when the vessel was pulled back alongside the dock.

But from that perspective, nothing—

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

And in what time period was that?

9:50 p.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

I've been on the coast for 20 years, so I'll speak from that perspective, and I've been with the authority for 13 of those 20 years.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

The government did make changes to CEAA in 2010, so we've seen changes in process. Some testimony was heard earlier tonight that further changes to the Environmental Assessment Act, especially related to the process showing predictability and timeliness in the process, would lead to environmental catastrophe.

The two examples that were given were the Exxon point and BP. Do you foresee any major changes in safety, especially in light of some of the safety provisions that have been included in this new act?

9:50 p.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

From the authority's perspective, we don't get involved with the CEAA part of the project. What we deal with is TERMPOL, and there are no changes to that.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Now the changes to this legislation address the fact that we are going to make some of the rules around tanker operations, including piloting, a bit more strict.

Do you think that's a positive thing? Would it help to ensure that this positive track record you have right now will continue?

9:50 p.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

Yes.

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Great. Thank you.

I want to talk to Mr. Jules. Thank you so much for coming tonight. You spoke about aboriginal Canadians sharing in the wealth created by our abundance of natural resources in this country, and in the energy sector. I want to ask you a few questions to explore that.

Last night we had the Mining Association of Canada here, and they testified they're one of the largest private sector employers of aboriginal Canadians in the country. You spoke a little about what benefits the aboriginal Canadians could see with new resource projects moving ahead. I'd like to give you an opportunity to expand upon that.

9:55 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

We have in Kamloops and in Skeetchestn an incredible agreement with New Gold mines, which is situated within our traditional territories and just outside of the city limits of Kamloops. What we've got through the agreement is a comprehensive training program, an employment program for aboriginal men and women. It's an incredible opportunity of being a joint venture partner in the mine development itself.

So you take risks, but you also reap the rewards later on. It's going to be an incredible number of jobs that are created for the first nations. It has led to an agreement with Thompson Rivers University for training of those individuals.

So not only do the first nations communities benefit, but the entire region. I see that happening as a potential right across the country. Availability should be made for first nations to be equity partners in resource developments, because, as I mentioned, when we just look at the royalty perspective, it isn't enough to encourage first nations to come forward and be supportive of a development moving forward. You have to be a business partner.

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you.

We also heard last night about the capital intensity of some of the major resource projects and how when proponents are going to decide whether or not they're going to move forward with it, they have to consider the window to market.

The challenge becomes this. How do we ensure that the integrity of the environmental assessment process is maintained, but also ensure that there's timeliness and predictability for business review? Given what you've just said, do you think the changes that are in this section of the budget implementation act could lead to increased jobs for aboriginal Canadians?

9:55 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

The short answer, of course, is yes. I think people will benefit from any opportunity where you have the streamlining of reviews and what not.

I say that because of the experience I've undertaken dealing with tax issues right across the country. We provide model by-laws, where there is a single point of entry for first nations when it comes to property tax. And if you apply that to how the legislation is looking for further development, of course, the answer would have to be yes.

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Ms. Rempel. Seven minutes have elapsed.

Ms. Leslie, for seven minutes.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:55 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

And thank you to all the witnesses for being here tonight, again, as my colleague pointed out, so late.

My first question is for Mr. Vaughan. I've only been in this role of environment critic for a year, so I'm still learning a little bit about what your office does. I know you're mandated to review certain things because it's a legislated review, for example, but my understanding is that you also take on projects of your own to review or to do an assessment of.

Am I correct in that? Do you have that kind of autonomy?

9:55 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

That's absolutely correct, yes.

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Have you, or has your office, done a review of the budget bill, of Bill C-38?

9:55 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

No. Our office would not be mandated to look at a bill. Our office would only be mandated to look at when an act is finalized, because a bill is policy and we stay out of policy. So that would be outside the scope of our office.

9:55 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

So you wouldn't have looked at the environmental proposals in this bill and done an analysis?

9:55 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Scott Vaughan

We're starting. Obviously, we're looking at this with great interest, and we've had various interviews with departmental officials because it's going to affect some work we have under way right now. One example would be the offshore petroleum boards for both Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. So the changes in CEAA are going to affect them as responsible authorities. Because of that and some other work we're doing, we've had various interviews.

So we've done some analysis, yes.

10 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Okay.

When I see this list of things that you suggest the subcommittee should review, obviously they've piqued your interest in some way. I want to ask you about paragraph 15, where you propose that we think about the changes to fish habitat and assessing aquatic biodiversities and ecosystems more broadly. What are your concerns? What are the red flags that appear for you?