Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand up in the House today to inform members of the various ways that the provinces and territories engage and co-operate with the federal government on environmental issues of concern to us all.
First of all, let me begin my remarks with a view to the Constitution Act, 1867. The environment, as such, is not listed in the Constitution and it is not a matter that neatly fits within the existing division of powers.
In several of its key decisions regarding the environment, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the protection of our environment is a matter of shared jurisdiction among the federal and provincial governments. Furthermore, the federal government has devolved many of its environmentally related responsibilities in Canada's north to territorial governments. It is, therefore, incumbent on federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work together in assuring that the health of Canadians and that of their environment is protected and managed in a sensitive manner.
Various mechanisms exist to achieve this objective among governments. We have the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Multilaterally, the CCME is the primary intergovernmental forum for ministerial discussions and for action on environmental issues of mutual concern. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment comprises all 14 federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for the environment.
In the case of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, as a Manitoban member of Parliament I am very pleased to say that it is located Winnipeg. It is chaired on a pre-determined rotational basis. The CCME is currently chaired by Manitoba, and Quebec is set to become the chair in June of this year.
My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment had the privilege of attending the last meeting of the CCME in Prince Edward Island this past September. At this meeting, federal, provincial, and territorial governments shared their respective views and came together in agreement to pursue collaboration in a number of areas, including climate change, waste management, air quality, cumulative effects, and hazardous spills response and prevention.
By working collaboratively to protect the environment, federal, provincial, and territorial governments are able to share best practices, reduce unnecessary duplication, and maximize our collective resources to the benefit of all Canadians. Together, we are achieving results for Canadians in managing the air we breathe, pursuing action to reduce our waste footprint, and protecting our shared water resources.
We look forward to continuing the discussion of these important matters with our provincial and territorial colleagues at their upcoming ministerial meeting in Winnipeg this June.
Regarding the issue of air quality, through this close collaboration between federal, provincial, and territorial governments, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has made a number of noticeable accomplishments in recent years. In 2012, the ministers approved a new national air quality management system. Once fully implemented, the air quality management system will protect the health of Canadians and the environment with measures to improve air quality right across Canada. It is a comprehensive system that includes stringent outdoor air quality standards, emission requirements for major industries, and provincial and territorial actions to address local sources of air pollution.
The air quality management system was developed through years of extensive collaboration with provinces, territories, and stakeholders. The result is a system that lets all levels of government work together to address air pollution in a coordinated and effective way, and governments are well under way in implementing all components of this system.
For example, in 2013, we established new outdoor air quality standards for ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, the two main components of smog. To further help improve the air that Canadians breathe, federal, provincial, and territorial governments are currently working together on new outdoor air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
In addition, in June 2014, we published in Canada Gazette Part I proposed mandatory national performance standards on specific sector and equipment groups. Once they are fully implemented, Canada will have, for the first time ever, consistent emission limits for regulated industries right across the country.
Provinces and territories are also establishing mechanisms for enhanced local and regional action targeting individual sources of pollution in communities across the country to ensure that poor air quality improves and good air quality remains.
This system is a model of successful intergovernmental co-operation in that it has been designed to allow different levels of government to act within their jurisdictions while still collaborating on an overall approach to manage air quality effectively. That was done under the leadership of our Prime Minister.
Waste water is another area where federal, provincial, and territorial ministers have come together and agreed to a Canada-wide approach for the management of municipal waste water effluent. Through working with provinces, territories, and engaged municipalities, the Government of Canada is proud to have enacted the country's first national standards for waste water treatment. The waste water systems effluent regulations, enacted in 2012, address one of the largest polluters of Canadian waters and protect our water quality for generations to come.
I used to work in the forest industry and I recall in 1989, under then prime minister Mulroney, the Conservative government implemented the pulp and paper effluent regulations, which had a dramatic effect on cleaning up waterways close to pulp and paper facilities.
Waste water systems posing a high risk will have to meet the effluent standards by the end of 2020, those posing a medium risk by the end of 2030, and those posing a low risk by the end of 2040. Thanks to changes to our Fisheries Act brought forward by this government, the Government of Canada has been able to conclude equivalency agreements with Yukon and Quebec and has also concluded administrative agreements with New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
The Government of Canada will continue to work with interested provinces to ensure efficient and effective administration of the regulations and to reduce regulatory duplication. This government, however, is also sensitive to the challenges Canada faces to meet these new regulations.
That is why our government has committed over $2.3 billion to waste water infrastructure since 2006 through a number of programs. Waste water treatment infrastructure is eligible for funding through the provincial-territorial base fund, the green infrastructure fund, the gas tax fund, and the building Canada fund. Under the gas tax fund, which is now permanent at $2 billion per year, municipalities can choose to spend 100% of that funding to upgrade their waste water infrastructure.
Regarding the issue of conservation, wildlife, and biodiversity—an area that is near and dear to my heart given that I represent a beautiful and diverse constituency—although the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment constitutes the major federal-provincial-territorial forum on environmental issues, there are several other issue-specific fora and engagement mechanisms.
I am pleased to report to the House that our Minister of the Environment will be convening a meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts responsible for conservation, wildlife, and biodiversity matters in Ottawa this February. This will provide a shared opportunity to advance important matters related to the protection of species at risk, the management of invasive alien species, and other biodiversity-related matters.
In addition, we consult with provinces and territories through the Wildlife Ministers Council of Canada, which provides an interjurisdictional mechanism for dialogue and advancement of key issues related to terrestrial wildlife conservation.
Our Conservative government also engages with jurisdictions through the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council, created under the federal-provincial-territorial accord for the protection of species at risk and formally constituted under the federal Species at Risk Act.
The current program of work with these two councils is being overseen by federal, provincial, and territorial officials under the Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee and a biodiversity steering group at the assistant deputy minister level. Current areas of work include species at risk; population conservation of various species of bats, migratory birds, and polar bears; invasive alien species; habitat conservation; and public engagement.
In recent years this federal, provincial, and territorial engagement on biodiversity matters has resulted in accomplishments in a number of areas. For example, Canada is in the process of developing national biodiversity goals and targets for 2020. These 2020 goals and targets will help Canada to focus on biodiversity priorities and provide the basis for measuring and reporting on progress.
Like those of many countries, Canada's national goals and targets are informed and inspired by the global Aichi targets, which were adopted in 2010 under the Convention on Biological Diversity's 2011-2020 strategic plan and tuned to the domestic context.
Some other examples of work undertaken jointly by federal, provincial, and territorial governments are the development of an ecosystem status and trends report and a value of nature to Canadians study.
The ecosystem status and trends report provides accessible and integrated scientific information on the status and trends in Canada's ecosystems. It serves to inform policy and program development on biodiversity and conservation in all jurisdictions.
For its part, the value of nature to Canadians study provides strategic and current data and analysis on the social and economic value of Canada's ecosystem goods and services, including wildlife and biodiversity.
This information will serve to substantially strengthen the decision-making capacity of federal, provincial, and territorial governments on the environment and the economy.
In terms of climate change in Canada, it is a shared responsibility between the federal government and the provinces and territories. Given the unique circumstances in each jurisdiction, the Government of Canada works with our provincial and territorial counterparts to inform the development of Canada's long-term climate change approach.
In the lead-up to the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Canada has committed to announce its intended nationally determined contribution as part of a global climate change agreement. The Minister of the Environment has been engaging with her provincial and territorial counterparts to obtain their input in determining Canada's post-2020 targets.
The Government of Canada has been doing its part by implementing a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that protects the environment and supports economic prosperity. This government has already taken action on two of Canada's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation and electricity. Moving forward, the government will continue to take action to reduce greenhouse gases from other major emitting sectors of the Canadian economy.
In conclusion, our Conservative government agrees that coordinated action between governments is crucial to advancing an array of environmental initiatives. That is why we are in constant contact with our partners and other levels of government right across the country. We are committed to working with provincial and territorial governments to advance environmental goals that contribute to improving the health of Canadians and their environment.