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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

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. McGuinty.

Grand Chief Atleo, you have questioned how the government's consultation would be improved simply by increasing funding for it. You have said that the internationally recognized principle of free, prior, and informed consent must be applied before projects are approved.

The environment minister has said that the Conservative government will increase its consultations with first nations through the changes in the bill, with an additional $1.5 million in funding. Do you know how the government actually plans to improve consultations, beyond money?

7:40 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

I don't know. What I do know is that the government has already allocated $13.6 million to first nations consultation. As a threshold matter, only about $7.4 million, or just over half of that money, is actually allocated to first nations communities for consultation. The rest, as we understand it, is going to support the bureaucracy. Even worse, the funding goes to CEAA. None of it goes to DFO, the NEB, or the CNSC. We really don't know.

On the same note, we also learned, through DFO's report on plans and priorities, that funding for aboriginal programs has been cut by 47.5% this last year. So the issue of adequate consultation and accommodation comes under very serious question. We routinely register concerns about the need for proper consultation.

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Grand Chief.

Grand Chief, you've been very clear. Can you comment on the government's claim that the repeal of CEAA will contribute to better environmental outcomes and “improve consultations with aboriginal peoples”?

I'm hoping Dr. Schindler will step in here, as will Mr. McGuinty.

7:40 p.m.

National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

As I'm alluding to here, there is not confidence, given the process leading up to the development of Bill C-38. The process for its very development has not been satisfactory, which has been stated more than once here already, such that the AFN must state that we're understandably very skeptical about any potential improvements.

The whole purpose of pursuing the crown and first nations gathering was to seek a return to a much more respectful relationship, whereby treaty rights and aboriginal title rights are respected and affirmed and where we jointly design processes going forward. That means agreeing on how to give effect to constitutionally protected rights for fish, the relationship to fish habitat and to water, and therefore to water quality. The previous processes were not acceptable, so there's a great concern with what is being suggested here.

However, a way forward as well, a solution, is that if we were to agree to take these elements, as we had suggested, remove them, and begin to work in earnest on them, first nations, as I said in my opening remarks at the January 24 crown gathering, are ready to do that work. The work rightfully belongs with first nations themselves, so that's what I would strongly recommend. Given that the AFN, even with the conversations we've had, the technical briefings...those do not constitute consultation. The deep work must be done with first nations. That's the hard work. The harder work is trying to suggest an easy way forward that is going to skip by this effort, and I fear that it's not a recipe for efficiency but rather one that suggests conflict.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Grand Chief.

Unfortunately, Ms. Duncan, your time has expired. We're almost a minute over.

We'll now move on to Mr. Allen.

May 29th, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I have just a couple of questions. I'd like to ask Mr. Denning a question, and then, Mr. Schindler, I have a couple of questions on your testimony as well.

Mr. Denning, you talked a little bit about double-hulled tankers. I also would like to understand what you see as the key safety requirements for ships on the west coast. I'm interested because we're having a lot of this debate on the east coast as well—I'm from New Brunswick. Do you see those as adequately protecting the public and the environment?

7:45 p.m.

Capt Fred Denning

The recommendations that came out of—

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Excuse me. We have a point of order by Ms. Duncan.

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm hoping that someone on the government side can point out to me where this is relevant in part 3.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Does somebody want to speak to that?

Ms. Rempel.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

I'm happy to speak to this, because in part 3 the government actually strengthens environmental protection by providing increased safety measures around tanker traffic, including the use of pilots, and I'm very excited to hear about Mr. Denning's thoughts around that section of the budget implementation act.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

On the same point of order, Ms. Duncan.

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Could we have the page number for that, please?

7:45 p.m.

A voice

She can read the bill—

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

She can read the bill herself—

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Well—

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

It's not there.

7:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

I'll look for that, but in the interests of time, please continue with your answer, Mr. Denning. I'll get back to it in a second and see if that section is indeed there.

Before we continue, I have here that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the Species at Risk Act are all involved. There was a question of tanker safety, which could have broader implications for how it would affect perhaps species at risk, or whatever the case might be, when it comes to environmental protection. So I'm going to humour this for a little while, but I'm going to ask the questioner....

Mr. Allen, if you can stick specifically to part 3 of this bill, it would be much appreciated.

Mr. Denning, your testimony was quite broad. If you can focus on those issues with respect to the environment, that would be what we're looking for here—environment, fisheries, and so on.

7:45 p.m.

Capt Fred Denning

The risk mitigation factors that were identified specifically for the Enbridge project would establish standards that are as high or higher than anywhere else in the world that we're aware of. The possibility of a significant oil spill is something that none of us wants to consider.

As pilots, we all have our communities, our homes, what have you, on this coast. Our work was done specifically to look at the conditions we would face moving ships in and out of Kitimat. Now, we have been doing that for many years, and our rate of incidents is next to zero.

The implementation of the larger vessels was seen by some as increasing the level of risk. After many years of study, including many trips to some very high-tech simulators in Europe, as well as the live ship trials, it confirmed with us that if we put the risk mitigation factors in place that were recommended, it would increase the levels of safety and protect the environment, which concerns us all very much.

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much.

Mr. Schindler, we had testimony last night from Mr. Prystay, who is an environmental engineer with the Canadian Construction Association, and he was talking about doing a lot of these environmental assessments. His company, Stantec, does a lot of these clear across Canada. He didn't look like one of these young student engineers who was doing these ten-page reports.

He talked about his experience and the work they do, and he talked about the inconsistencies across Canada, especially with DFO's habitat biologists and various projects and the level of aid that's required to support a review, the level of habitat compensation that's required when a project goes for authorization. It's quite variable across the country, and it's even reflected in the operational statements that DFO has across the different management units.

This bill is attempting to try to put some more standardization around that. Do you read anything in the bill that is not saying that, and do you see that standardization across the country as a bad thing?

7:50 p.m.

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. David Schindler

I think the standardization would be a good thing. I think, though, the way I would go about it is more uniform training and in some regions more people. I know that at one point people in DFO were very frustrated. One of my fellow scientists who was doing reviews exclaimed that he had 400 before him, ranging from an individual road culvert up to a pulp mill in size, which he was expected to do rapid screening on and declare them as ones that could be handled by an individual officer or had to go to some higher level of review, the highest being a full federal-provincial review. So they've been manpower-limited; I'm sure they've been training-limited. It's like any police force or whatever. Standards are variable across the country. We do our best to make sure they're not, but they always are.

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

There are a couple of interesting sections, and one of them we won't have time to get to—aquatic invasive species—but if I do, I will.

Do you see the proposed section 4.4, where the ministerial authority can undertake programs and projects with conservation organizations...? I see that as a very strong point in this. A lot of these conservation organizations—and I have a lot of them in my riding, like the Miramichi Headwaters Salmon Association—do tremendous work. Do you see it as positive that they can write these agreements for stewardship?

7:50 p.m.

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. David Schindler

I think it's positive that they can. I would prefer to see some more specific language. I always get very nervous when I see the word “may” rather than “must”. The minister “may”, to me, means that a lot depends on who the minister is and what side of the bed he gets up on. If I look at it from the standpoint of a potential investor, that would make me very nervous because I couldn't see a clear path.

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

It could be something specified by regulation, though.