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  • His favourite word is water.

Liberal MP for Ottawa South (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Geological Survey of Canada May 5th, 2017

Madam Speaker, Canada's very first scientific agency, the Geological Survey of Canada celebrated its 175th anniversary on April 14, 2017.

In 1842, 25 years before Confederation, its founder and first director, William Logan, began by assessing our mineral wealth, our very first natural capital indicator. Travelling by horse, by foot, by canoe, mostly through uncharted wilderness, its early scientists described and recorded Canada's geology, geography, resources, inhabitants, and wildlife. They were, in effect, the government's official explorers. Their pioneering work in the 19th century laid the foundation for the development of Canada's mineral and energy resources.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the GSC's national geological and resource maps, publications, and scientific studies provided significant stimulus for our expansion and our growth.

I ask all members to join me in congratulating the Geological Survey of Canada on 175 years of groundbreaking, outstanding service, and wish them every success in their future projects.

Ottawa River Watershed April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank the colleagues who have contributed. I would like to take a moment to thank, in particular, the members for Pontiac, Lac-Saint-Louis, and Ottawa West—Nepean for their thoughtful remarks on this motion. I thank all of my colleagues, all 11 MPs in the national capital region caucus, for their encouragement and collaboration on Motion No. 104. I would also like to pay a special tribute to and thank the Minister of Environment for her ongoing support for the Ottawa River watershed council. I look forward to working with her and her department on this important initiative.

Some 15 years ago, I wrote an op-ed in The Globe and Mail that I entitled “Overdraft at the Nature Bank”. The piece was about trying to illustrate for Canadians that our economy, our daily lives, and the way in which we order our affairs continues to draw down and rely intensely on nature. We need nature for its carrying capacity. There is no replacement for a functioning air and water filtration system, for example, as is provided through the hundreds of millions of hectares of wetlands on this planet, yet we continue to deplete wetlands without really knowing the effect on our long-term sustainability. We continue to draw down species on the planet without knowing necessarily what will happen when they are depleted or cease to exist. My point at that time was that we needed a new form of reporting and wealth measurement and that all countries should begin to measure and report on their natural capital, on the wealth that surrounds us, which is beyond the typical economic reporting we use, for example, in the budget-making process.

Similarly, this motion looks to push out our thinking in another way, which is to rethink the way in which we manage the natural assets around us.

One of the world's top economic environmental economists once said that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, and not the other way around. We would be foolish as a species, as a people, to knowingly draw down the capital on this planet without replenishing it or investing in it. No corporation would do such a thing. No company would ever try to run its affairs knowingly drawing down and losing its capital base. On the contrary, it would look to increase its capital base. This new form of management we are trying to examine in the study is one where we recognize a fundamental truth, which is that we are not organized by geopolitical lines; we are organized through natural lines.

The Ottawa River watershed is massive. It is mighty. It is the jewel in the crown of this entire part of our beautiful country. It does not understand that it is divided by province. It does not understand that it is divided by municipalities and that we have many different actors working within it. What we know is that it is one integral watershed. We know that it is subject to all kinds of stressors. We know that there are many kinds of activities in the watershed. For Canadians who might be listening or watching, this watershed is bigger than the province of New Brunswick. However, we do not sit down together in any one place and deal with this situation. We do not have business, first nations, governments, NGOs, labour groups, and community groups sitting down together and saying that there is one watershed, just one watershed. We can knowingly draw it down, or we can stop for a moment and look at the possibility of creating a council where we would respect the fact that it is one and understand that keeping it sustainable for all of us is the end game.

When Lord Stern did the most comprehensive study in history on climate change in the U.K., what he illustrated for the world was that we could take action on climate now. Yes, it would cost some money to deal with the climate crisis, while giving rise to all kinds of new economic activity. We could do it now and pay some price, or we could delay and pay so much more later.

I believe it is time for us to really clearly examine co-management going forward, integrated water management. That is why this motion is so important. It is time for us to admit what is true. It is time for us to come together and deal with the watershed as one whole.

Air Transportation February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last year in Ontario alone there were 144 laser strikes on aircraft. The Ottawa International Airport in my riding is a possible venue for these types of incidents. Laser strikes can seriously blind someone operating an aircraft. All of us were very concerned by the recent event in Elgin County where a police helicopter was struck by a laser strike. This is serious business.

Could the parliamentary secretary please inform the House on the actions the government is taking on this file to ensure air safety in Canada?

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do.

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, no.

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, let us take a look at the Fraser Basin Council as a model that should be emulated. There are 38 directors, which includes an impartial chair and 37 directors, four orders of government, private sector, civil society, aboriginal leadership. That is a place where people sit down, as adults, with science, evidence, criteria with measurable outcomes, with a performance plan, with a management plan and steward that precious resource for Canada going forward.

We should examine this in great detail for the Ottawa River watershed. It is a wonderful asset for Canada and all Canadians. Again, our responsibility as the national capital region is to show leadership in this regard.

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, that remains entirely a possibility. I believe the member is still a member of the environment committee and has a very distinguished background in the field of sustainable development. I consider her to be an expert on that committee and hopefully would be able to lend her expertise.

Coming back to the need for this now, we know there is no forum here today with the watershed to even share data, knowledge, or ideas for improvements across the many silos that exist. We know that at the watershed scale, there is no shared management plan, no conservation strategy, no shared vision of common agenda. We can do much better than that. That is the import of this study. I am convinced it is the way forward.

Co-management, whether it is with watersheds or whether it is ocean resources, is the only way to overcome the fiction that there is a limitless caring capacity with our natural ecosystems, and there is not. We know that, not the least of which through all the evidence, all the knowledge we now have about climate change.

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there is plenty of opportunity for negotiation going forward with respect to the timing, the depth, and the how.

Why would one put a motion forward to examine a particular watershed? Because my 30 years of environmental legal experience have taught me that we need to ground truth, this kind of example in practical ways so Canadians can understand, and they do understand. This is a way to build a council that can be replicated. It can build on the wonderful experiences, for example, of the Fraser Basin Council, of what happened in Lake Winnipeg, of what is going on throughout Quebec with its watershed management approach, which is extremely progressive.

It is not so much the localization of this watershed as it is a study that can be used and extrapolated right across the country.

Ottawa River Watershed February 23rd, 2017

moved:

Motion No. 104

That the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be instructed to undertake a detailed study with regard to the creation of an Ottawa River Watershed Council, which would bring a comprehensive, inclusive, co-management approach to the Ottawa River Watershed, in order to foster ecological integrity, sustainable economic opportunities, and quality of life; in its study, the Committee shall examine (i) the council membership, which would include, but would not be limited to, federal, provincial, regional, and municipal governments, First Nations, industry groups, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions, (ii) important indicators such as water quality, biodiversity, and shoreline integrity, in order to assist with the creation of a co-management plan and conservation strategy, (iii) the economic, cultural, heritage, and natural values within the Ottawa River Watershed; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than December 2017.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise this evening to speak to this motion. I have the good fortune of being the grandson of Irish pioneers who settled in the Ottawa Valley and my great grandparents lived very close to the Ottawa River. There is a very strong tradition that runs through the veins of so many Canadians in this region and beyond, those who have been touched by the beauty and stupendous power of the Ottawa River, which I have always described as the jewel in the crown of the national capital region. I am pleased to move this motion not only as the MP for Ottawa South, but also as the chair of the government's national capital region caucus.

There are now 1.4 million Canadians living in this catchment area called the national capital region and it is growing at a rate of 7% to 8% a year. This is the fifth largest census metropolitan area in the country.

The motion calls for a study to revamp our thinking when it comes to managing the way we do business and the way we relate to something as essential as a watershed. It is an incredible opportunity for Canada, not just in the context of the Ottawa River watershed but right across the country. I will come back to that theme in a moment, because there are many trends and positive developments in this regard right across the country.

This is a case where we get to illustrate, through the study, the fact that we need a new form of management. We need a new form of co-management, which is widely described as integrated watershed management. It tries to overcome a fundamental challenge when it comes to the way in which we organize our affairs as a society and how we interface with something as important as, for example, the Ottawa River, how we interface with natural carrying capacity. It is to overcome the challenge of what my parents used to present to their 10 children when they would say that we just could not have a situation where everybody's job was nobody's job.

The Ottawa River watershed, and watersheds writ large across the country and the planet, is what we have to start addressing. Although there is a myriad of actors that interface or deal with the Ottawa River watershed, there is only one watershed. That is one of the stark realizations that folks who live around the watershed, the provinces, the federal government, and different actors, have now realized, that it is a delicate, important asset. It is, frankly, a very valuable asset that forms part of our overall natural capital, not necessarily built capital or human capital but our natural capital.

The motion calls for a major study that would analyze how we could take the management of the Ottawa River watershed to the next level, to the next iteration. This has been informed by the good work of a number of examples in Canada, for example, the Fraser Basin Council in British Columbia. It began in early 1990 and has proceeded in a very sophisticated way to bring together different stakeholders and groups that treat the Fraser Basin as one. They realize it is an asset to be managed with great determination and care as there is only one Fraser Basin. There are not 10 or 20; there is one.

On that note, I am also delighted that many stakeholders in this region are strongly supportive of conducting a study, not least among them the Ottawa Riverkeeper. I really want to commend the Ottawa Riverkeeper and the team, Meredith Brown and Jean Perras, in particular, for their extraordinary leadership and work. They are to be congratulated on pushing out the envelope and thinking in terms of the opportunity in front of us to do something very powerful in our national capital. From here, we can springboard and challenge national capitals right around the world.

We have many competing interests with the Ottawa River, but, first, why this motion? It is the border. The Ottawa River forms the border between Ontario and Quebec and makes it an interprovincial waterway. Therefore, the management of the Ottawa River is an area of shared jurisdiction. Obviously, the federal government is implicated, the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec, regional and municipal governments, watershed organizations, and our indigenous peoples.

This motion recognizes the importance of the Ottawa River watershed to our overall economic, ecological, and cultural well-being. A comprehensive study on the creation of an Ottawa River watershed council would ensure that multiple levels of governments, indigenous peoples, and all stakeholders work closely together to coordinate their activities and their decisions that serve to protect and to preserve this incredible asset for all Canadians.

What kinds of competing interests do we have when it comes to something as powerful as this Ottawa River? By the way, Canadians should know that the Ottawa River's flow on a daily basis is greater than every western European tributary combined. It is a mighty, powerful river and in large part helped build lots of early central Canada. There are competing interests. For example, economic ones are hydro power, tourism, forestry, fisheries, agriculture. On the environment there is water quality, with this city and the city of Gatineau extracting most of their drinking water from the surface of the Ottawa River. There is biodiversity, pollution, and climate change. Within the Ottawa River watershed, there are 18 Ontario parks and eight Quebec parks. When it comes to social well-being as I referred to a moment ago, we can speak to water quality and drinking water. We must consider flood risk, recreational purposes, and of course river access. The Ottawa River watershed is a massive part of our local culture, our economy, and our environment. It is an asset. It is, as I said, the jewel in the crown.

How big is it? The Ottawa River watershed covers more than 140,000 square kilometres. It straddles the border between Ontario and Quebec. It is also the largest tributary of the St. Lawrence River. It is very large, larger than many European states, larger than the province of New Brunswick.

What is the present state of affairs now when it comes to the management of this precious asset? We have an Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board. It is the only governance body for the Ottawa River that includes both federal and provincial representatives, including Ontario Power Generation and Hydro-Québec. It is mostly concerned with the question of hydro-electric energy production and of course flooding and other related issues. It does not allow for the broader mandate that this study would examine where other stakeholders, a more diverse array of stakeholders, would come together and treat the watershed as one whole.

This is not simply something that is timely in the context of this region and this particular watershed. On the contrary, the watershed movement, this whole question of evolving toward what is now being called integrated watershed management, is a national and international trend. It allows for a meeting place, an agora as they said in ancient Greece, a place where we can manage human activities and ecosystems at the watershed scale. It would integrate multiple concepts and methods, including water- and land-use planning and management. It evaluates the management of cumulative effects from multiple environmental stressors. Therefore, if we have one municipality releasing waste into the river and yet we have another organization like Atomic Energy of Canada dealing with the challenge of nuclear waste also along the shores of the Ottawa River, we have these different stressors at play but we have no place to sit down collectively to say, “How do we manage these collectively so we can ensure the sustainability of this important watershed?”

It brings together many aspects of governance such as policy, planning, and legislation on the basis of a geographic area, this watershed approach. It brings people together so that their activities can be shared and their relationships are better fostered among the different actors who live, who operate, who act, and who have a bearing on the watershed. This is very important. It is something that exists right across the country.

I alluded earlier to the Fraser Basin Council in British Columbia. Many of my B.C. colleagues here know full well how successful it has been. It brings together dozens of stakeholders and has meetings to assess the overall health of the Fraser Basin and what different effects different activities are having on the Fraser Basin, because it reflects the reality of the concept of there being only one Fraser Basin. Here the study would examine the fact that there is only one Ottawa River watershed.

What are some of the drivers for this integrated watershed management trend in Canada this study might embrace? We know that activities upstream are going to have detrimental effects downstream. I am reminded of what New York City did. Instead of building a multi-billion dollar water treatment facility at the back end, it went upstream and negotiated a series of deals with different municipalities, industries, first nations, etc., to invest in cleaning up the river upstream. By the time the water got to New York City, it was cleaner drinking water. The cost of protecting that watershed in the context of upper New York State was much lower than the cost of building a tertiary water treatment facility in New York City. They treated it as it should, as a form of natural capital to be protected and invested in.

It is also now known that it is just not desirable or feasible any longer to have a single water agency. This is clearly not working. We know that water is connected through the hydrologic cycle, and groundwater and surface water have to be connected in our management activities.

Recently, in a meeting I had with a senior senator from California, I remember having a broad conversation, but the only thing he was fixated on talking about was whether California was going to have access to Canada's water and whether we would be performing inter-basin water transfers, not something this country is particularly interested in seeing happen whatsoever.

We need to know what is happening to the hydrologic cycles, and this can be analyzed through this study. We have to recognize that there will be water shortages, flooding, and water quality issues throughout the globe, including in Canada, southern Saskatchewan, the Red River, the Saguenay River, the Richelieu River, Walkerton, the Great Lakes, and many others.

We also have to consider and examine increased water users and the types of water use, including increased awareness of the need to better balance ecosystem needs and withdrawals. This has led to more conflicts and more difficulty in overcoming the conflicts. Having a watershed council would allow us to deal with and diffuse these conflicts up front, because we would know collectively what is happening in the watershed basin as a whole.

Canadians everywhere now insist on more opportunity for participation, for community-based management approaches. The council would provide such an opportunity.

There are many other drivers at play, not least of which is that we appreciate that aboriginal peoples living in parts of many watersheds, like here in the Ottawa Valley, and throughout Canada, rely on many water resource services, and they must be involved in the planning and management of those resources.

The case for the study to examine this watershed council is pretty darn strong. It is a question of sitting down with the right players, coming up with a management plan and strategy, and coming up with the metrics we need. We do not even have agreed upon metrics to evaluate the state of the watershed.

I am now convinced that all the stakeholders would want to be part of this council. That includes Quebec, the municipality of Gatineau and those on the other side of the river, and all of the communities located along the river, which is thousand of kilometres long.

I am asking my colleagues to support the notion that we examine this in greater detail, study the possibility of having such an approach, and use this as a wonderful opportunity to showcase what a national capital can do, not just in the context of other integrated watershed management approaches for Canada but globally. Let us start with Washington and the Potomac River, for example, and expand beyond there. Canada has this wonderful opportunity and obligation.

I am asking my colleagues to support the motion in due course, and it is an honour for me to present it.

Business of Supply February 23rd, 2017

Madam Speaker, I want to follow up with a couple of pointed questions. Maybe the member could help Canadians understand the position of the Conservative opposition.

In the previous government, Mr. Harper as prime minister, announced a cap-and-trade program for the country. He unilaterally decried a price on carbon for Canadians. He went to London and gave a massive speech, which he called the energy superpower speech for Canada. If I recall, he announced that by 2019, carbon would be priced at $160 a tonne. That was a unilateral decree from a central federal government. That is not one that builds in the flexibility of our plan, where provinces are able to find the mechanism that is preferable for themselves, including those that already have a price on carbon, and then deciding themselves what they would like to do with those revenues. That is the kicker here. We are giving the provinces the authority to decide what they want to do with those revenues. If Saskatchewan wants to reduce personal income taxes, it can do so.

Could the member produce the same analysis she calls for now, the same analysis that she arguably would have had done in the previous government, with all the details—