This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

10:15 p.m.

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

Scott Vaughan

I think that would be for the government to answer.

10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

I agree with Mr. Amos that this should be hived off. But if it does go forward, I have concerns about how it's going to be put into practice. For example, Ottawa's own experience with the oil sands shows that the direct effects of resource development can be spread far and wide and can accumulate significantly as new projects come on line.

Also, how will Ottawa define the kinds of small projects that will no longer get environmental hearings? What does “directly impacted” mean, and how will it be put into practice?

10:15 p.m.

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

Scott Vaughan

Again, I think that would be for the government to clarify. My understanding of the bill is that the NEB will provide public consultations for the public that is directly affected by a project. There are transboundary effects that are also in the bill. The question then is what “directly affected” means in terms of the geographic scope of those consultations. I think that's, again, a question that needs clarification.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Ms. Duncan.

Thank you, Mr. Vaughan.

We'll go to Ms. Ambler, for five minutes, please.

May 29th, 2012 / 10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of our witnesses who are here this evening.

Chief Jules, I wanted to talk to you about one of the four key pillars of the responsible resource development plan in Bill C-38, which is to strengthen consultation with aboriginal Canadians. We want to better integrate the consultation process with aboriginals by designating a lead department or agency to be the point agency, or the federal coordinator, for all projects. How will it help aboriginal communities to have one point of contact during the consultation process rather than having to repeat the same message to many different departments?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

That's the answer in and of itself. I used to be an adviser on the Auditor General's advisory panel on first nations issues, and when you're dealing with first nations issues, you have a myriad of reports. You've got numerous federal government departments to contend with on a daily basis, and just having one lead on these issues would be a tremendous burden off the shoulders of the local first nations communities.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

A simplification, I suppose?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

That is a big factor. It would be very helpful?

10:15 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

That's right, it would be.

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Mr. Bonnett, your organization has stated that:

Canadian farmers have...faced regulatory uncertainty regarding the management of drainage ditches and irrigation canals on their land, so the proposed changes are a positive development for the agricultural community. Farmers rely on the proper maintenance of drainage ditches to ensure their farms remain productive and viable but the Fisheries Act did not recognize this.

This is from a news release approximately a month ago.

How would the changes in part 3 of Bill C-38 affect your stakeholders' ability to create and improve habitat? What types of difficulties, setbacks, or holdups have your members encountered when dealing with the Fisheries Act?

10:15 p.m.

President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Ron Bonnett

I think it goes back to the changes I described.

Right now in the Fisheries Act, it is very clear that if there is any harmful alteration or destruction or disturbance, immediately you're in contravention of the Fisheries Act. Just to go through basic maintenance on a drain you're going to be disrupting and making changes to that habitat during the period it's under construction.

Even though you go through the approval processes at the local conservation level or the local municipal level, what we were finding is that quite often there would be a fisheries officer who basically read this legislation to the letter of the law and went through a process of demanding extra reviews and permits before you could proceed.

Quite often, there would be a drain that was scheduled for maintenance and they'd go through the process, and then all of a sudden they'd find that it was getting bumped sometimes a year or two years ahead. I'll use another example from the province of Ontario, where they decided to go through what they call a class environmental assessment for drains and they tried to categorize which drains would be subject to what types of approvals. They set that up, but still, at the end of that, some drainage supervisors were finding that Department of Fisheries officials were coming in and making them go through an additional process again.

It boils down to the fact that the wording of the act was so strict on the habitat issue without having an understanding that in order to keep these drains as habitat for fish, they have to be renewed on a regular basis. An outright ban on any disturbance actually works against creating fish habitat.

That type of issue really was a concern.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

It's a good example of the intention not being fulfilled, really, in the law.

10:20 p.m.

President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Ron Bonnett

That's right.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Okay. Thank you for that very comprehensive answer. I appreciate it.

Dr. Quinney, how would you characterize the impacts to fishing and hunting from the environmental assessment process in part 3 of Bill C-38? I know your remarks concentrated a bit more on the Fisheries Act, but I know that you know a lot about the EA process as well, and the regulatory changes. So how would those changes affect your stakeholders' ability to create an improved habitat?

10:20 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

I have just a brief comment, perhaps.

Firstly, new efficiencies in environmental assessment overall in Ontario would be welcomed. Some have used the word “harmonization”. Professionally, I think those efficiencies would be good for the Province of Ontario. It is our hope that the federal Fisheries Act—and the changes to the federal Fisheries Act—will continue to inform, in fact, the environmental assessment process, as they should.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Thanks.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Ms. Ambler.

Mr. Allen, for five minutes.

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here.

Dr. Quinney, I just want to pick up with you. One of the comments you made during your testimony was in regard to the dubious benefit of the no net loss provisions. Could you just comment a little bit about that?

From your standpoint, do you view fish management practices, like stocking and things like that, as something that is very worthwhile, in terms of fish stocks and that type of thing?

Do you see the new section 4.4 in the bill, where the minister can actually work with conservation organizations and have agreements for financial assistance, as being beneficial to organizations like yours?

10:20 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

Thank you. I believe you've asked a three-part question.

First, we as an organization are very results oriented. We believe that legislation like the federal Fisheries Act should be results-oriented as well. Committee members have talked sometimes about perhaps the less than optimal match between intent and outcome. We see a potential for direct improvements in that regard.

Absolutely, on the question of fish stocking, the answer is that multiple benefits are produced from judicious fish stocking. Those can be benefits to ecosystems but also great benefits to people and society as well.

Third, to your question with reference to a new creative idea that may in fact result in more resourcing for conservation initiatives, we appreciate the creative thinking involved there. We have been assured, though, that the requisite monitoring and assessment will be in place and that that suggestion is value-added, so to speak—an entirely new way to enhance contributions, for example, to assessment monitoring and direct habitat enhancement.

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Thank you very much.

I know that a number of my colleagues and I are very much in support of fish management and support conservation organizations.

You came to our fisheries committee, as we were studying the Asian carp, and you talked about the economic benefits of the fishery, almost $8 billion and three million people fishing, and the tremendous value to Canada and the tremendous potential negative impact that invasive species can have. Can you just talk a little bit about that?

There's a section in the bill here that talks about the invasive species, and the legislation proposed will allow for the creation of regulations to specify the types of invasive species. Is that what the Ontario federation was looking for?

10:25 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

Absolutely. That's highly progressive. We're very pleased that the Government of Canada is going to pursue regulations, for example, to prevent the import and transport of Asian carp across this country. That's a very significant and important step in the right direction.

I would just finish for now by mentioning that my comments have really dealt with the importance of recreational fishing to Canadians. Many OFAH members organize their lives around fishing and hunting and fish and wildlife conservation. Yes, recreational fishing is very important in this country, but commercial fisheries and aboriginal fisheries are very important in this country as well. So there is a very significant collection of important fisheries in every province and every territory.

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

I'll put a plug in for the $17.5 million to control the Asian carp.

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

There we go.

10:25 p.m.

Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Dr. Terry Quinney

Excellent news.