Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon everyone.
Also, welcome to the new members of the committee and Parliament. I can only imagine how exciting the day was for you yesterday. We all came in at once, but you came in one at a time, so you have memories to be cherished no doubt.
Colleagues, a lot has happened in the five months since I was last here. We have seen some commodity prices rise, then fall, and then rise again. Some have momentum. Others, unfortunately, only have moments.
This uncertainty in the natural resource sector is a reminder of the times we live in, one marked by unprecedented change and ongoing challenges from new U.S. countervailing duties on our softwood lumber, to consolidation in the oil patch. All of this is taking place amid a global transition to the lower carbon economy that has become inevitable in every part of the world.
Take China, one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. It's making generational changes to how it uses energy, including a commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 18% and to cap its coal emissions by 2020. Next year, it's putting a price on carbon.
Consider Saudi Arabia, the quintessential oil-producing country. It's aiming to build enough solar capacity over the next 15 years to supply about 20% of its electricity.
Why are there all these changes? It's not only because environmental responsibility is essential to economic development, or because meaningful indigenous engagement is the constitutional obligation, or because public confidence is critical to resource development in the 21st century, although those are all very good reasons and top of mind for our government, but there is an even more fundamental reason. Ensuring Canada is a global leader in the clean economy is our surest path to sustainable growth, good middle-class jobs, and shared prosperity for generations to come.
This is the lens through which the main estimates were viewed and drafted. I have Deputy Minister Christyne Tremblay, and our chief financial officer Cheri Crosby, with me to help us navigate our way through the numbers, but I would like to start with a brief overview of how these main estimates fit within our government's priorities.
The first key point to make is that the main estimates are a snapshot in time, in this case from February, but departmental budgets are not static. They evolve, which is why we have supplementary estimates throughout each fiscal year.
Second, our main estimates often feature wide variations from year to year, reflecting everything from volatile commodity prices to new priorities and sunsetting programs—and this year's main estimates, Mr. Chair, are no different. For example, the biggest decrease is a forecast $335 million drop under the statutory Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act due to lower resource prices and production levels anticipated on the east coast. It's a steep drop to be sure, but the annual fluctuation has little direct bearing on Natural Resources Canada's funding. We are merely the conduit through which these payments flow to the offshore boards and the provinces.
Likewise, there's a $46.2 million decrease showing for Sustainable Development Technology Canada, but it doesn't mean we've cut its funding. It merely reflects our decision to transfer this important program for clean-tech companies to a different department. So SDTC disappears from our radar and reappears at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
I highlight these two items because when they are removed from the mix of net increases and decreases, a very different picture of NRCan emerges. Suddenly, a $250 million funding decrease from last year's main estimates gives way to an $82 million overall increase in our programming and operating budget. That means more money to help ensure that Canada's natural resources sector is globally competitive, more money to promote environmental stewardship, more money to encourage consumers to make smarter and more environmentally sound purchases, and more money to better manage our lands and resources and to provide Canadians with greater protections.
That's the snapshot before you today, a storyline built on our first budget, budget 2016, which featured a significant down payment on the clean economy.
You can see it with the first instalments to modernize the department's research facilities, advance clean-energy technologies, enhance environmental performance in the oil and gas industry, and create a national network of recharging and refuelling stations for tomorrow's clean vehicles.
Budget 2017 takes those investments and runs with them. For example, it provides an additional $200 million over four years to support clean technology research and innovation in Canada's natural resource sectors, including energy, forestry, and mining.
Budget 2017 also recognizes the vital role of forestry in addressing climate change, and invests close to $40 million to increase the use of new low-carbon wood technologies in infrastructure projects.
We're also providing another $43 million this year to help the forest sector develop innovative wood products and to expand into new markets. That's particularly timely in the wake of the new countervailing duties the United States announced last week on Canadian softwood lumber. I am sure members will have questions when they have a chance to ask them. I will just add here that our government plans to use every tool at its disposal to fight these punitive duties and to defend the interests of Canada's softwood lumber industry, its workers, and their local communities.
Budget 2017 also extends the 15% mineral exploration tax credit for an additional year to ensure that the mining sector continues to make its vital contribution to the Canadian economy. This tax credit helps junior mineral exploration companies raise capital to finance early exploration that can lead to new discoveries, future mines, and more jobs. Its extension recognizes that recent commodity market improvements are still tenuous and that financing remains challenging.
Budget 2017 also proposes a one-time payment of $30 million to support Alberta's efforts to stimulate economic activity and employment in its resource sector, and there's another $17.4 million over the next three years to support the National Energy Board's efforts to enhance pipeline safety.
All of these investments, Mr. Chairman, will drive innovation and help us fulfill our commitments in the pan-Canadian framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, spur innovation, adapt to climate change, and create good jobs across the country.
Budget 2017 also includes $220 million to reduce reliance on diesel fuel in rural and remote communities; $100 million for next-generation smart grid, storage, and clean electricity technology; $120 million for electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles, and those powered by natural gas; $182 million for new building codes to retrofit existing buildings and construct new net-zero energy buildings across Canada; and $87 million for indigenous advisory and monitoring committees for the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3 replacement pipelines.
Finally, more broadly and perhaps most importantly, budget 2017 identifies six key innovative industries in which Canada can lead globally and create good jobs for Canadians. Two of them fall within Natural Resources Canada's purview: clean technology and clean resources.
Our main estimates are an important piece in all of this. They are part of our government's plan to strengthen the heart of Canada's economy, the middle class, by making strategic investments that will produce sustainable growth, a cleaner environment, and thriving communities.
I'm hoping you will support our efforts today by approving the main estimates, and I would welcome any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.