Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, be concurred in.
I want to thank my colleagues for such a warm welcome. We have been here for so long that it is hard to be warm these days.
I am moving concurrence in the report from the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I am a member of that committee. The report is called “Terrestrial Habitat Conservation in Canada”. Why did we study this? That is a good question. I am going to go back a bit on why we even have a report on terrestrial conservation.
I do not actually remember which throne speech it was, but a couple of throne speeches ago, there were some hints that the government was going to have a conservation strategy. That is not bad news. It is ostensibly good news, so we were excited to see what was going to happen with that. Then the environment committee was tasked with doing a study on what a conservation plan would look like.
On the face of it, that actually seems like really good parliamentary procedure. We have an idea from government. We are going to task a committee to study something and get some really good information so we can give advice to the minister. As I said, on its face, that seems wonderful and it is exciting to actually do good parliamentary work at committee, but what happened is it went off the rails a little bit. I know it is hard to imagine in this environment.
Where we started was with a general conservation study. My colleagues and I would show up and we would be keen. We had done our research. We would ask questions of the witnesses about conservation, what a conservation plan would look like, what that kind of strategy would look like. It was interesting. There were moments when it was very frustrating, because for some reason the Conservatives did not want to hear anything about climate change when it comes to conservation. It is interesting because conservation actually is a good solution to climate change on a lot of fronts. For example, if we are preserving large tracts of land, we are keeping the vegetation that is there. It is basically a natural carbon storage.
We heard some interesting testimony about climate change and how conservation would actually help us deal with the effects of climate change and prevent climate change from advancing. We also heard some really interesting testimony about the impacts of climate change on conservation efforts, the fact that we are going to have to adapt a little bit. If we are going to create parks, for example, we need to think about extreme meteorological events. We need to think about the impact of waves, tides, and storms on our infrastructure. It was good testimony. Remember that this is not the current report on which I moved this concurrence motion; it was the report before.
There was good information, good testimony about climate. None of it is in the report. We have to remember that Conservatives do have a majority on these committees, so what comes out in the end, although we can fight in camera and try to get stuff in a report, it does not end up in the report. There was nothing about climate change. The report was absolutely silent on that subject.
Getting back to this idea of studying conservation generally, as I said, there was good testimony. We were pretty excited. We were thinking that this was our way to contribute to the parliamentary process, the democratic process. We were going to give some advice to the minister. Despite the fact that climate change did not make it into the report, there were some other positives about the report. We had these moments of feeling that we were part of a parliamentary project, that it was a worthwhile endeavour.
Then we went in camera to decide the next committee business. All kinds of ideas were put forward. The NDP has all kinds of ideas. We put forward so many motions. We put forward a motion that our committee review the government's sectoral approach to greenhouse gas regulations, and review the delays in establishing those regulations for the oil and gas sector. We put forward a motion on the Great Lakes and how climate change is impacting the water levels. We put forward a motion about the Arctic, to study the impacts of climate change and resulting new resource development and transportation routes on the Arctic, its environment, species and ecological balance. We came armed with so many good ideas.
We went in camera, where the majority rules, and we came out with a study on urban conservation. We went from conservation to urban conservation. We tried to be optimistic and full of energy and said, “Okay, another conservation study. Here we go.”
Maybe there is a point to the urban conservation study, because in some musings that the government members had, they also talked about the creation of Rouge Park, a national park that would be an urban park. I think it would be North America's first urban national park. That is pretty exciting stuff. Again, there is a glimmer of this ability to contribute to the parliamentary process and government decision-making. That means there would be another study on conservation, but at least it would be on something where maybe there is a hope that the minister would be listening and we could talk about some important issues that we would see the results of in a bill about Rouge Park.
We started our study. There was some great testimony from people about urban conservation, the way that people can connect with the natural environment while living in cities and urban environments. We heard really good testimony about climate change, the way we can mitigate the impacts of climate change, and that we can mitigate the fact that climate is changing, and there are things we need to do to adapt when we are looking at urban conservation and climate change. Of course, none of that ended up in the report, because we cannot talk about climate change at the environment committee. It is quite amazing.
We did this study on urban conservation. What was interesting is that on Friday last week the government tabled a bill on the creation of Rouge Park in Scarborough. I believe it may be on the docket to talk about today, so I have been madly prepping to speak to the bill. It has been really difficult. I read the bill yesterday during my caucus meeting. We had a briefing on it from the minister's office yesterday afternoon. We are scrambling to give some feedback on the bill and we have not had the time to do a proper analysis. I have read it, but I have not digested it. I have not had time to reach out to stakeholders to get their advice on what is in the bill and if it is doing what it purports to do. However, I will say that I have had the time to look at our notes from that urban conservation study. There was a small section on Rouge Park that we did in that study. I looked at the bill, and it is not apparent to me where those suggestions from our witnesses are in the final bill.
At the time I felt a bit discouraged that we were doing urban conservation right on the heels of a conservation study. However, I thought that maybe we would have an impact on the legislation, that maybe we are giving advice to the minister, which is what committees are supposed to be doing, and maybe it would be in the bill. I have the bill. Perhaps it will become clearer to me later when I listen to the minister's speech, but I do not see that good advice from the witnesses that we heard at committee reflected in the legislation.
I have gone from being a little disheartened by doing two studies in a row on the same subject to wondering what is the point of us even doing these studies if the minister is not listening. We did not choose the study topic. I will leave it to everyone's imagination, but a majority on the committee probably made the decision to study these topics. I wanted to study climate change. I wanted to study some other topics, but let us make the best of it if we are doing conservation, and then the results of our report are not even reflected in the bill. There were two studies on conservation.
We finished the study on urban conservation. If my memory serves me correctly, I think we managed to work in a rare show of collaboration with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. I think we had a unanimous report on urban conservation. There is nothing egregious in it. We pointed out that it is missing a lot of things, but the information that was in there was accurate. There was no discussion on climate change, which we pointed out.
Then we went in camera and we made decisions about what we would study next. It is on the public record that the NDP put forward some incredible motions, such as doing a study on the Species at Risk Act, its implementation and funding. That is a really important issue right now. It is one of the only pieces of environmental legislation that was not gutted in the 2012 omnibus budgets.
Speaking of budgets, we put on the record that we wanted to do a study on the impacts of budget cuts on the operations, sustainability and accessibility for visitors, and sustainability impacts for the surrounding communities to Parks Canada. That is a great idea. Why are we not looking at the fact that we have seen all these job losses and all these budget cuts at Parks Canada?
Time passes. Also, in 2013, we had motion to receive a briefing by the official Canadian delegation to the climate change convention negotiations prior to the meetings in Warsaw in November 2013 to detail Canada's negotiating priorities. It sounded good to me. We are still waiting for that briefing.