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Evidence of meeting #5 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 process.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tony Maas  Director, Freshwater Program, World Wildlife Fund (Canada)
Robert Steedman  Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board
Warren Everson  Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Rachel Forbes  Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
Geoff Smith  Director, Government Relations, Canadian Electricity Association
Terry Toner  Chair, Stewardship Task Group, Director, Environmental Services, Nova Scotia Power Inc, Canadian Electricity Association

7:40 p.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Rachel Forbes

We were aware, but I can tell you that most people in Canada were not. There was no effort made at outreach.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Okay.

Thank you, Ms. Forbes.

Thank you, Ms. Rempel. Your time has expired.

Mr. Anderson, for five minutes, please.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Chair, Ms. Rempel needs to finish a question.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you.

Ms. Forbes, you also mentioned there was a lack of legitimacy in the process. With nearly close to a hundred hours of government committee study, by my count, would you characterize a parliamentary committee that has reviewed these matters over many months—the better part of this parliamentary session—through budget consultation, written submissions, and parliamentary process as not legitimate?

7:40 p.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Rachel Forbes

Yes, because reviewing CEAA, which had been enacted for however many decades before, is not the same thing as looking at an entirely new act that actually flips the process around.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

And a seven-year statutory review, which is embedded in the act and which people were aware of through a parliamentary committee, you would characterize that as non-legitimate.

7:40 p.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Rachel Forbes

I think there are different ways you can carry out a review process, and I think the way that it was—

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Thank you. My time—

7:40 p.m.

Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Rachel Forbes

—done in 2011 was not legitimate.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Anderson.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Thank you.

Mr. Steedman, I want to ask you some questions about changes to the NEB Act. We've been talking a little bit about timelines here. I'm just wondering if can you tell us a bit about it. What are the new timelines being set in place for NEB reviews?

7:40 p.m.

Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board

Dr. Robert Steedman

For facilities hearings, that is, on pipelines and power lines, there's a total time limit of 18 months. The National Energy Board would be required to complete its process within 15 months. The last three months would be for the Governor in Council to do their part.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Are there any provisions for extensions on that as well?

7:40 p.m.

Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board

Dr. Robert Steedman

The minister can extend it by up to three months. Cabinet, upon recommendation of the minister, could extend it further.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Can we just get you to explain a bit, then, how the decision-making process is approached and what the process is that's carried out, just so we can get that on the record?

7:40 p.m.

Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board

Dr. Robert Steedman

The NEB would conduct a public hearing that integrates environment, economy, and social issues the way it always does. We call that the public interest assessment. It's fact based. It's fully transparent, like a court of record. It's based on an advanced, very clear statement of what the filing requirements are.

The NEB would collect its evidence. It would have an oral hearing, with participant funding. It would produce a recommendation report and give that to the Governor in Council for the Governor in Council to direct the NEB to issue a certificate, to dismiss the application, or to reconsider the report.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about enforcement, then? I think there are some new provisions for enforcement. Can you go through those and talk a little bit about the changes and I would say improvements in that area?

7:45 p.m.

Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board

Dr. Robert Steedman

The act has always provided for criminal sanctions: indictment or summary conviction with substantial fines. The NEB does not do that directly; it would do that through Justice.

The bill gives the NEB administrative monetary penalties. This is a new tool. These are designed to encourage compliance. In our compliance ladder, which ranges from requesting compliance and ends with asking them to shut down their facility or criminal prosecution, the administrative monetary penalties would provide a fairly rapid way of imposing a fine on someone who violated the act or a term or condition of an approval.

May 31st, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I have a minute or so left.

Mr. Everson, we've heard time and again here from people—usually the people who've taken the time to look at the bill—that the EA system needed to be changed and is being changed in a good way. What we've heard is that the main change is not to outcomes, so there's no lessening of the rigour, demand, and the outcome. The changes that are taking place are in the process part of it.

I guess that's my question: isn't it the process that has really been the issue here?

7:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Warren Everson

I think that most of our members, if they were here, would say to you that if there's a difference between the regulatory authorities in provincial and federal governments, it would be that the regulators in the province are a little more aggressive. We do think there's just a lamentable amount of duplication; it seems a tragic waste of the environmental resources and the human capital we have that they're duplicating the process. So to that extent, for sure—this is a much desired bill in our membership and we've lobbied for it for a long time.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Smith, you'd concur with that, would you?

Do you agree with that?

7:45 p.m.

Director, Government Relations, Canadian Electricity Association

Geoff Smith

I think it's the result of a lot of input over the years and challenges that we've been looking at.

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

So you're comfortable with your access. You feel you've had access in terms of participating—

7:45 p.m.

Director, Government Relations, Canadian Electricity Association

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Mr. Anderson, your time has expired.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

We will now move on.

Ms. Quach, you have five minutes.