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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 22 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 8:40 a.m. to examine and report on emerging issues related to its mandate (implementation of the Kyoto Protocol).

Senator Mira Spivak (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Deputy Chairman: Honourable senators, we will begin this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Today we have Ms. Gélinas, Mr. Affleck and Mr. Pelland from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Please proceed and afterwards we will have questions for you.

[Translation]

Ms. Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Honourable senators, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee this morning.

I am here to present our findings on the chapter entitled: "Road Transportation in Urban Areas: Accountability for Reducing Greenhouse Gases." With me are my key management staff responsible for this audit, Mr. John Affleck and Mr. Bob Pelland.

Although I have already met many of you, this is the first time that I have appeared before your committee.

I lead a group in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. We represent the environmental group. We seek to support parliamentarians in overseeing the federal government's efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.

Our goal is to provide you and other Canadians with objective, independent analyses of the federal government's progress. Where necessary, we make recommendations for further action.

I see your committee as a critical forum to help advance key environmental and sustainable issues. I am very pleased to have this opportunity today to discuss with you one of the most fundamental issues facing Canada's efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, namely accountability for the results.

This is not the first time that I have looked at issues related to climate change. In fact, my office first looked at climate change issues in 1998 and concluded that the failure to meet Canada's climate change commitments at that time was the result of poor planning and ineffective management. The federal government had not applied sound management principles, resulting in an implementation gap.

[English]

In 2001, I revisited the climate change issue and concluded that, although some progress had been made, the federal government still needed to do a great deal of work to engage partners in dealing with the climate change challenge.

As part of my 1998 work, we recommended that the federal government enhance its reporting to Parliament by preparing a consolidated summary level report on a periodic basis.

As honourable senators will be aware, in June 2003, the federal government tabled its first comprehensive report on the Government of Canada's investment in climate change from 1997 to 2002. This report recognized that achievements to date are presented mainly as outputs and activities and that effort is needed to quantify these achievements as a measurement of results.

In August 2003, the federal government announced that it is investing an additional $1 billion toward implementing Canada's climate change initiatives. This investment represents half of the $2-billion allocation to address climate change announced in the 2003 budget.

No doubt, the federal government can identify where it is choosing to invest, but my concern, Madam Chairman, is that, unless good accountability frameworks are put in place, the federal government will have difficulties demonstrating what it expects to achieve and, ultimately, what it has achieved in terms of actual emission reduction.

The federal government is currently allocating money for climate change initiatives. However, in my view each of these investments must be accompanied by clear and concrete targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The results need to be measured and reported. Parliamentarians and Canadians should know not only what is expected but also be able to assess the government's performance against actual result achieved.

Accounting for and reporting on results has become even more important with Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The transportation sector is the largest contributor to Canada's greenhouse gas emission at 26 per cent of the total. Over 70 per cent of transportation emissions are due to cars and trucks on our roads. Between 1990 and 2001, these emissions rose by 25 per cent. Two thirds of these emissions are in urban areas and this is where more than three quarters of Canadians live.

Individual Canadians will have a big role to play in helping to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments. They generate about a quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and half of these emissions are from personal road transportation.

[Translation]

I began my audit by looking at what initiatives or programs the Government of Canada currently has in place to address emissions from cars and trucks in our cities.

Action Plan 2000 on Climate Change and the Climate Change Plan for Canada contain nine actions in the transportation sector that expect to account for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 21 megatons, or about 12 per cent of the reduction of Canada's total emissions.

Of these nine actions, I audited one of them, the Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance Program, for which Natural Resources Canada is the lead department. The federal government has supported the development of fuel cell technology for over 20 years and has identified it as a means to curb air emissions from vehicles in our Canadian cities. I did not examine the other eight actions as they were either in the early stages of implementation or did not have a strong focus on urban transportation.

Based on what I found, I remain concerned about whether the activities of the Canadian Transportation Fuel Cell Alliance Program will be completed and the program's expected outcomes will be met by its target dates. The federal government has invested or committed over $100 million to hydrogen fuel cells without any national strategy. Clearly, the government must decide what role it will play in addressing these challenges and, if appropriate, what long-term commitments are necessary.

I also examined two initiatives in Transport Canada: the Moving On Sustainable Transportation Program, identified by Transport Canada as a key initiative for enhancing Canada's awareness of sustainable transportation, and Transport Canada's Intelligent Transportation Systems Initiative.

[English]

While the Moving on Sustainable Transportation Program — know as MOST — has multiple objectives, one of the expected long-term results of the program is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from transportation sectors. For example, the Hamilton commuter challenge, an initiative to get people out of their cars and to use alternatives, was funded by the MOST program as an activity representing a significant contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The intelligent transportation systems initiative is promoted as a tool to improving transportation in urban areas. One of the objectives of this initiative is to reduce harmful emissions by improving traffic flow. Toll collector devices such as those used on highway 407 in Ontario are an example of an ITS application.

These two initiatives are intended to have an impact on road transportation in urban areas and lead to a reduction in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. However, Transport Canada was not able to demonstrate the extent to which these initiatives were reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, thus, contributing to help Canada reach its Kyoto target.

Attached to my opening remarks, you will find a table that indicates, for the three programs examined, the time period involved, the dollars spent and, where known, the performance targets.

All the federal government's action to reduce greenhouse gas emission in the transportation sector involves partnering with other levels of government and other stakeholders.

Honourable senators, I understand that your work plan involves examining in detail the how-to of specific implementation strategies from the federal government. In my view, a big part of the how-to will require the development of partnership agreements with a strong accountability framework. All partners, including the federal government, will need to be held to account for achieving their stated performance expectations. These partners include individual Canadians.

In its climate change program for Canada, the federal government is calling on all Canadians to reduce their individual greenhouse gas emissions by about 20 per cent or one ton from the approximately five tons produced annually by each Canadian. This reduction represents 13 per cent of the total reduction Canada needs to make to meet its Kyoto target. However, the plan does not specify how this will be accomplished or how it will be measured.

Your committee can be instrumental in encouraging the federal government to sharpen its pencil.

[Translation]

I would also encourage your committee to continue to request, for all federal initiatives targeted at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a status report on what results have been achieved to date. The results of my audit are an early warning to the federal government. It needs to improve how it sets performance targets, measures them, and reports on them to Canadians.

I will continue to be watching closely. I believe that there is still time to get it right

[English]

Before I finish, I wish to say that this chapter we have completed is not a bad story. It is a story about the early implementation of the federal government's climate-change initiative. Essentially, we are saying that we should fix things properly in the first place so that, five years from now, I will not be in front of your committee telling you, "Sorry, but we cannot tell you anything because the framework was not properly designed."

That is the essential message of this chapter. My people will be happy to answer any of your questions.

Senator Merchant: I, too, have been concerned about how we will engage one of our main stakeholder groups. I refer to ordinary Canadians like me. I need to see that my actions are contributing to some good results. I do not know how we will do that. How will the average Canadian know that? That will be a hardship for some of us because we are not used to living our lives in different ways.

Out west, where we live, it is very cold in the winter. The public transportation system is limited because of our small numbers. Regina has 200,000 people. We are used to the convenience of going to our warm garage in the morning and jumping into our warm car to get to work, because it is very cold. We could stand on a corner and wait for a bus that comes every half-hour, but we would need to see that that action really gives some good results. What kind of parameters can we put down to help people realize that what they are doing matters?

That is just one example. You can find others with every other kind of household use of energy. What ideas do you have for us?

Ms. Gélinas: Let me go first with a kind of personal comment and I do not do this often. I also look at myself as an ordinary Canadian who will have to change her own behaviour. When we talk about transportation, it is not an easy change in behaviour, certainly. When we were doing our audit, we found different projects and programs going on across the country. Amazingly, some of the things that are happening in Canada are quite interesting and can certainly cause behaviour changes.

My colleague may give you a couple of examples. We have highlights because what you have said is key for us, too. We should be sharing our success stories. We have asked the government to fulfil its commitment to put all the success stories on the Web site to let Canadians see what is working and what is not working well. Then they can replicate those projects elsewhere in Canada. Briefly, we can give you some examples of requests we are making to the government to help accelerate behavioural change in Canadian society.

Mr. John Affleck, Principal, Audits and Studies, Sustainable Development Strategies, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: We did have a case study in the chapter that dealt with three initiatives to encourage people to change behaviour. That involved reducing idling in the car, active and safe routes to school and what we call Off Ramp, trying to encourage Canadians to change their behaviour.

We generally believe that Canadians are willing to do their part to reduce greenhouse gases. The current climate change challenge reminds us of the recycling challenge we had a while ago. The big breakthrough came when we provided the tool — the blue box. Now recycling is a part of everyday life for Canadians. Changing behaviour can be accomplished provided that the tool is in place.

To pick up on what Ms. Gélinas said, we have the bike-share example referred to in the report. This is a 10-year plan in Toronto to make 1,000 bicycles available at 10 hubs throughout the city. A large part of the plan is informing Canadians on the results. Transport Canada did a performance report with respect to helping reduce greenhouse gases. There were some reductions as a result of this project. To be exact, the change was 43 metric tons of CO2 and 45 kilograms of nitrogen oxide.

There is no doubt that public awareness is a pre-condition for achieving meaningful reductions, especially from greenhouse gases in urban areas. We feel the government could still do more to provide information on these types of initiatives and to inform Canadians on the kinds of results they are getting. That seems to be the missing piece right now.

As Ms. Gélinas mentioned, Web sites are a big part of that. Our audit told us that this information is not always available on government Web sites. Organizations that lack funding to produce their own Web site often rely on the federal government to communicate the success of their own initiatives. Again, it is not just the initiatives in place that are important but also communicating to the public the results of the initiatives.

Senator Merchant: I hate to repeat myself because I have said this before, as the committee knows, but these things work well in the laboratory. In Regina, we must be stubborn or something. The blue box has not worked in Regina as far as I can tell because, when I drive up and down the streets on the days when the blue boxes are out, I see very few blue boxes on each block, perhaps one or two. That tells me that the majority of people have not bought into the idea.

If I go to the bottle return, I see many people there because they get money when they return bottles. In our community, we must pay for someone to pick up the blue box. If recycling is important, why could the city not build this into their taxation system, instead of making it just one more thing the citizen has to pay for? Why is the city not committed to this? We can talk about these things, but how do we engage people?

Senator Finnerty: I know how to change that.

Senator Merchant: Come and change that in Regina.

Senator Finnerty: You change that by electing people who will take this seriously.

Senator Merchant: It has not been an issue at election time.

The Deputy Chairman: Perhaps we could address our questions to the witnesses.

Senator Merchant: It is not an issue. We just had elections. Nobody talked about energy or recycling or any of that. That is not an issue in people's lives.

Ms. Gélinas: The climate change issue is one of the most important financial issues before the federal government. As an auditor, I believe Canadians are looking for a good return on investment. Does that mean they will behave in ways that will reduce greenhouse gas? We all must do our fair share. The government is putting in place programs that will address behaviour change. As commissioner, it is important to ensure that whatever programs we have create good impacts, good results and good returns on investment.

If the results show that we need to invest more in a particular program because of its greater impact, and not necessarily because of major behaviour change, then those political decisions will have to be taken at that point.

My job is to ensure that you have the right information to base your decision on. We are talking about big money and we need to ensure that the investment is properly done.

Senator Cochrane: Like Senator Merchant, I know of a province in Canada that has not just the green box, but several boxes. One is for compost, one is for paper and one is for bottles. There are about four. They put them out on the lawn once a week. I have asked questions regarding that, and I have been told that much of the garbage is not put in these boxes but thrown on the wayside, and the province is getting messy, where it was not before. Some of the people that work for the town have to go out and pick up this garbage. I do not think it is working fully there, either, so that is another province that is going through this torture because, to some people, it is a torture when they have four different boxes to put garbage in. It is a torture in the sense that you do not know which box to put it in. It probably will take a while before this grows on people.

I totally agree with what you said. I think results of the bottom line will be very important. Do not wait for five years to do it but do it at each term. Show the people just how much this has helped financially or whether it will take another year down the road to get people interested. However, it must be known, whether you put ads on television or whatever, but the results have to be worked on.

Are you able to identify good success stories right across the country? If so, have they been identified to the general public? Could you tell us about that before I go on?

Ms. Gélinas: In every audit chapter that we do, we always try to have a balance. If things are not working well, we raise those things. On the other hand, if we can bring some good success stories about how to do business, we try to do that, too. We have a couple of examples. We have not looked in detail at different projects that were going on because, as I said, we are really at the early stage of implementation. We were just trying to figure out whether the accountability framework was right.

If I may comment on what you said, I totally agree with you. If Canadians are able to see results of the efforts that they are making on a regular basis, they will probably be proud and try to do more. We all like that as human beings.

People also have to make sure that they are not the only ones contributing to the effort. That is why we are looking at a wide variety of programs and projects that involve the industry, that will involve the sector of research and development and other areas where all Canadians also have to make efforts.

Mr. Affleck: I will not go into a great deal of detail on the individual programs, but in the case study on changing people's behaviour, we tried to identify what was communicated to us by the people running those programs, such as the success factors that made them continue to be a success.

We made a comment in the chapter that the three initiatives we looked at were fairly successful. At this stage, we did not have a lot of information, so we looked at participation rates in terms of how they engaged people. In one of the initiatives we looked at, we noted that they conducted surveys to see the extent to which the behaviour they were trying change was continuing, and they had good indications that that was the case.

In the case of the "Turn it off" anti-idling program where signs were put up and people turned off their cars, there was significant reduction of 32 per cent in incidents of vehicle idling. In the duration of idling, it is over 70 per cent. Those are some examples of how it works, but, again, these results have to be communicated to the Canadian public.

Senator Cochrane: Was this just for Ontario or Toronto?

Mr. Affleck: As Ms. Gélinas said, we did not do a comprehensive look right across the country. These were selected behavioural change initiatives.

Ms. Gélinas: To give an example, we were referring earlier to a project called Off Ramp, which was first initiated in Vancouver. This project won an award from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in 2000. We have good success stories in this country. This program, essentially, is to find a way to get our children at the secondary school level to find ways to school other than to ask their parents to drive them, for example roller blades, bicycles and other kinds of things.

If you replicate those kinds of projects all over the country, and if people from Ontario know what is going on in B.C., these are ways to ensure that in the long term — because you are right that it will not happen overnight — things will change and we will be more aware of what sustainable transportation means.

Senator Cochrane: On page 3, number 15, you said the federal government has invested or committed over $100 million to hydrogen fuel cells without any national strategy. How has it done that? There must be objectivities. There must be a hypothesis as to what it hopes to achieve, namely, objectives and the bottom line. How has it done this?

Ms. Gélinas: We both agree on that, and this is one of our major concerns. This is an area where a great deal of money has gone so far — money from the climate change and different programs — and we are asking these questions: What is the goal? What is the federal vision with respect to hydrogen? What are the objectives that it wants to achieve? This is, as we speak, unknown. We were told, though, as we were doing the audit, that the Department of Natural Resources was working on a draft policy or strategy with respect to hydrogen fuel cells, but there is nothing more at this stage that we can report to you on.

Senator Cochrane: How have they invested the money? They have already invested it; right?

Ms. Gélinas: Most of the money was put in research and development to develop the Ballard cell technology.

Mr. Robert Pelland, Director, Audits and Studies, Sustainable Development Strategies, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Some of the money is also going to demonstrate the fuelling stations, because not only do you need the car, you also need to fuel the car. There are different ways of providing the fuel for the vehicles. The project we examined, the Canadian Fuel Cells Alliance Program, is to demonstrate the fuelling part of it. Part of our concern with that program is that a limited number of cars were available to assist in that demonstration of the fuelling stations. Even though the program has some specific objectives, it does not have the vehicles to demonstrate how many cars you can fuel on a given day. We are concerned about them meeting their targets.

Senator Cochrane: It was only yesterday, I think, that I was listening to a program on TV, and it said that the Ballard fuel cells are now at a standstill, and the hybrid cars are now taking over. Are you aware of anything like that?

Mr. Pelland: I think the hybrid cars are here now, whereas the fuel cells still have some technology hurdles to get over before they can be commercially available. There are very few hydrogen fuel cars around in the whole world, let alone just in Canada, whereas hybrid cars are available on the market now. The major automobile companies are producing hybrid cars, and you can buy them at the dealership. You cannot buy a hydrogen fuel cell at the dealership these days.

Senator Cochrane: Will this be a setback for the fuel cells?

Mr. Pelland: I cannot say.

Senator Christensen: At this time, without Russia having signed on, there are no real legal implications for Canada. How do you see that changing if Russia does sign on?

Ms. Gélinas: For us, it does not make a big difference. A commitment is a commitment. Whether or not it is legally binding, when we audit, we audit commitments. If the federal government has committed to reducing greenhouse gases to a certain percentage, which it has, we just go ahead and see what it has put in place in terms of action plans to get there.

Now, if the Russians ratify and the convention or the accord becomes a legal one, that has huge implications at the international level. I will ask Mr. Affleck to give you more detail about that. However, we have to keep in mind that now more than ever, reporting on results, and credible results, will be key. It is not only reporting to Canadians on progress and return of investments, but showing to the rest of the world that we are doing what we say we will do, and that we have a rigorous basis upon which to report so that no one will question our numbers and our results. On that specific aspect of the impact for Canadians of ratification by the Russians, perhaps we can give you a little more detail.

Mr. Affleck: To us, a commitment is a commitment. In our report, we talk about the environmental and sustainable development deficit, and that is the gap between commitments and action. However, if and when Russia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, the protocol then comes into force and becomes legally binding. This will trigger consequences for any country, including Canada, if it misses its targets. The compliance regime for the Kyoto Protocol is probably one of the most comprehensive and rigorous in the international arena, so there are consequences.

In the case of non-compliance with emission targets, Annex 1 parties, which would include Canada, are given 100 days once they submit their report. That is subjected to an expert review, and they look at the final emission inventory for the commitment period. We are given 100 days after that to make up any shortfall. At the end of this period, if Canada has still missed its emissions targets, it has to make up this difference in the second commitment period plus a 30 per cent penalty, so there are fairly severe consequences.

I am not an expert in this area, but my understanding is that Canada will then also be barred from emission trading, and within three months after that, Canada has to come up with a comprehensive action plan in terms of how it intends to make up this shortfall in the second commitment period.

Senator Christensen: So it is not only critical to have a good auditing program to meet your fiscal requirements, but if in fact it becomes a binding legal requirement to report internationally, those audit programs have to be in place as well so that we can say how much we are saving or using?

Mr. Affleck: Absolutely.

Senator Christensen: In developing your auditing criteria, do you look at what other countries are doing to audit and to be accountable in their usage and reduction?

Ms. Gélinas: We have not done that for this audit, but often, in our audit work, we will do some benchmarking and look at what is going on elsewhere. That is very time consuming, because we have to travel abroad and know what is going on and so on. At the end of the day, you can always compare yourself as to better or worse. We do it, but just to get an idea of what is going on elsewhere. We may become more important in the future because parliamentarians will ask say, "We are bad or good, but what about the others? How do we compare?" We will have to do that with the climate change issue, and for us the climate change issue is there to stay, so we will report on a regular basis.

I might add one thing on how important it will become for parliamentarians to hold the government accountable and for organizations like the office of the Auditor General of Canada. If we ask to see the inventory and a status report on progress on a regular basis, and if you question the government and we question the government, that will give much more credibility to the Canadian process. When we report internationally, at least the federal government will be able to say, "We have had hearings. We were questioned. We have reports back to parliamentarians on that. We have reported back to the Auditor General on that." That will give, from my standpoint, much more credibility to the Canadian process. The reporting is one aspect, but you need to ensure that you put in place a process that will validate or certify in some way that the data we are providing is correct and has been looked at by many people in this country.

Senator Christensen: If you have any information on what is being done in other countries, perhaps we could have that information as well.

When we had the energy crisis in the 1980s, we had a lot of energy saving programs in transportation, new housing, reductions in individual homes, upgrading and all those good things. I know in the beginning there were not good auditing programs, but they did develop. Have you gone back to look at what we did before and the kind of programs we had in place for auditing the savings?

Ms. Gélinas: No, we did not.

Senator Christensen: Would you be?

Ms. Gélinas: Looking back?

Senator Christensen: Are we re-inventing the wheel?

Ms. Gélinas: I do not think we will go back there. There are some good programs. We audit the policies and programs that the government put in place. It is not our job to say what should be done, but to ensure that whatever has been put in place by the government is being implemented properly. My colleagues have some views on that.

Mr. Affleck: I do not have anything specific as it relates to energy programs. One of the main messages in the chapter is that you need a sound framework in place, and that applies to energy, those programs you referenced, as well as where we are now. It is not rocket science. These are such things as clear roles and responsibilities defined within the department, setting out clear and concrete performance expectations — what we expect to achieve, provisions to report credibly so Canadians are informed of the results — and then provision for adequate review and adjustment so we can go back and say, "This one did not work as well as the other, and maybe we should shift some money into another initiative where we are getting a lot more results." Coming from an audit shop, it is mainly sound accountability principles.

Senator Christensen: Certainly I agree 100 per cent that we must be in a good position both fiscally and to tell Canadians what they are saving. However, at the same time, with the monies we are expending, we do not want to be putting unnecessary amounts of that money into just straight auditing. We want to maximize the amount of money that is being spent. In any auditing I have ever had done, usually the auditors make recommendations on how you can improve your presentation and what might be better. That is why I was trying to follow the line of whether you have looked at others in giving your recommendations to the departments on how they can improve.

Mr. Pelland: On that point, in this chapter, we are trying to say not to wait until the horse is out of the barn. Let us keep it there. Get the accountability framework in place, with clear roles and responsibilities, clear and concrete targets, and provisions for reporting and review and adjustments. Make sure you are on track or make adjustments as you need. You can do that at the front. Do not wait. We come along usually after the programs are pretty well along in their path, or even completed, and that is a bit late in the process for Canadians.

We are suggesting that there is a potential role for the committee to encourage the government to ensure that these things are in place at the front end so that when we do come along, we will see that everything is there and things did work out well, we hope.

Ms. Gélinas: We were referring to recommendations and follow-up. I will tell you how we work. We often have five or six recommendations in a chapter, and we get responses from the department on how they will address our recommendations. Then we do a regular follow-up on what they have done and report back to you.

I would like to use this opportunity to say also that if ever you issue a report and you have your own recommendations, we can factor that into our own follow-up. We can follow up on your own recommendations and report back to you and let you know how things are evolving.

Senator Watt: Once again, thank you for appearing before this committee. I believe it was last week that you appeared before the Fisheries Committee.

I think you are certainly in the area of very interesting challenge. It took a long time for the climate change to be fully realized by the various authorities in this country and to put an organization such as yours in place to begin identifying an area that needs to be identified.

My problem is this: the fact that you mentioned there is a lack of a framework in place and a lack of accountability. The government does not seem to be serious enough, the way that you described it, nor does it seem to be willing to move forward and to take this matter as a priority. The government has spent some money already and has made some investment, in addition to some commitments that they will undertake to do certain things. The question is: Do they fully understand what the challenge is? I think this is where you are coming into the picture.

It is fine to do the audit and to describe what is there, but at the same time you also come up with the various sets of recommendations that you would like the government to do in order to be accountable for their own actions. I feel to a certain extent, as I described last time in the Fisheries Committee, that there seems to be something missing in the system, namely, a mechanism in place to take some action. In other words, verbal commitments have been made without a clear understanding of what they are committing to. On the other hand, they have also made an investment, not knowing what that dollar amount that is made available will do and what it will bring. You have described that quite well.

The planet is a huge. Using a funnel as an example, you cannot simply put a monitoring system in place to monitor everything that goes through that funnel. It is very difficult to do, especially when you are dealing with climate change that is related to the whole planet. Not only that, it affects the international community, not only Canada.

I realize that it must begin somewhere and I think that our government has made a commitment that it will undertake to do something about this. Again, I am not sure whether there is a full coordination within the various departments that have full knowledge and whether they are prepared to commit themselves to X number of dollars to correct things. I am not sure we are there. I am questioning that. I think you also are questioning that in so many ways.

If a legal instrument is put in place not only to monitor but also to ensure that the government is doing the work that they said it would do, perhaps that is what we are looking for here, namely, a mechanism that does not exist today within the system to deal with this. As you said, climate change is here to stay. It will not disappear; it will get worse. I am not sure any more that we are at the stage where we have the luxury to go continuously through fact finding while not taking action to correct it.

We are almost at the tail end now when we should be at the head. I really do not have the actual solutions to what I am talking about here, but I see the problem. What do we do about it?

Ms. Gélinas: I do not know. We are at the end of the week and I had a hard week getting through different audit committees with some other issues that are real concerns to me, too. However, I tend to be more optimistic this morning about the climate change issue.

It always depends on where you look at it from. If we look at what was going on in 1998 when we did the first audit — and, it is an international commitment so there is a clear federal role — there was no federal leadership, no coordination among the departments, and no clear understanding of what the federal government was intending to do. A couple years later, and it did not take that many years, the federal government came to the Climate Change Secretariat, with a clear understanding of its role, how it will have to deal with the provinces, the different sectors, and actions to move ahead. Even if we are still saying that there is a long way to go, many things have been put in place, over the last five years, for example.

I have looked at other issues over the last couple years, since I was made the commissioner. For example, the pesticide issue in Canada is much more of a concern to me because you do not see anything really in place in terms of action plan. In this case, at least we have two action plans that help us identify what is supposed to be done and then ensure that progress is made over the long term.

Let me keep my optimism in this one. The key thing is to ensure that we keep the department's feet to the fire so that there is no way that they can slow down. They will have to move faster and faster and have good reports in place to report back to us.

On another issue, a couple years ago we did not have that inventory of greenhouse gas emissions or the comprehensive report; something that, as the commissioner, I was asking for, to be able to see what is going on. We must ensure that, on a regular basis, those documents will be updated and we will be able to question the numbers that are there. We must also have the departments come before us to explain what they have done, what works, what does not work and, for those things that do not work, why they do not work. We must have good tools at hand so that both you and I can do our jobs and so that we can report back to Canadians on the progress.

Mr. Affleck: The report that Ms. Gélinas is referring to, the first comprehensive report on the government's investment in climate change from 1997 to 2002, was the result of one of our recommendations that we made in 1998. In the report itself, however, the government acknowledges that the achievements are really presented as outputs and activities and there are not a lot of results in there. As Ms. Gélinas suggested, one thing the committee could do is hold hearings with government officials and push this issue of results and get away from listing all the activities and outputs and ask the officials: What have you actually achieved with the initiatives?

Senator Finnerty: Most of my questions were answered, but I think it is important that we engage both the provincial leaders and the municipal leaders in this issue. It takes dialogue between our federal counterparts to ensure that this happens at premier conferences and that it is brought back to the municipalities. I am appalled that some cities are not using the blue boxes. It is unbelievable, when you are from Ontario where it is mandatory, basically. We need to have some fines in place, perhaps. That is just my observation.

Senator Merchant: Is there some way that you can directly have a report card that you can send to Canadian households, for example, when you do your audits and you see where the government is doing well and where they need to improve? How is that communicated to the ordinary Canadian, then?

As citizens, we have power. You are aware of where the government is falling down or where it is doing well. If we had some way of knowing that, it would be beneficial. How are you able to get that message to Canadians?

Ms. Gélinas: I wrote an op-ed piece this year for the pesticide chapter to The Globe and Mail that kindly offered to publish that piece. I can tell from the feedback that I received from Canadians through e-mails and phone calls that this is an easy way to reach Canadians.

We certainly cannot afford to prepare a pamphlet for all households in Canada. Perhaps I should consider having an op-ed piece dealing with the climate change issue in urban areas. This is certainly something that I can write to bring the issue to Canadians. We could do op-ed pieces on a regular basis as we are doing our audit work to inform Canadians about what is happening.

There is another way in which we can have an impact on Canadians. I do not know if you have heard about the petition process of which I am the warden. One MP has a newsletter that she distributes to her constituents. She had a one-pager dealing with my position, responsibility and the petition process, which is a tool that Canadians can use. That is another way to get information to Canadians.

The Deputy Chairman: Forgive me for interrupting you, but I wonder if you could outline the petition process for honourable senators. Perhaps not everyone understands it.

Ms. Gélinas: With pleasure. Let me say, first, that I have three specific mandates. The first one is to report on matters of significant importance. That is the audit work that we are doing.

Also, honourable senators should know that when my position was created in 1995, there was also a mandatory requirement for 25 departments to produce a sustainable development strategy. That is basically the action plan that each department designs to move Canada on a sustainable path with respect to their specific mandate.

The third part of my mandate is to look after the petition process. This is simple. It is unique in the world. Many people are jealous of what we have here. It was quite courageous at the time to put that in the Auditor General's act.

Basically it is a way by which any Canadian — individual, municipality, MP, or senator — can make known an issue. We are still looking for a petition from a senator. We have had a couple from MPs. People can ask questions directly to ministers about environmental matters or sustainable development matters.

I ensure that within 120 days, the department or the minister replies to those Canadians. We have received questions from all over the country not only from strong environmental groups but also from ordinary Canadians who have a local issue of concern. The only requirement is to have a federal hook with respect to the issue that they are raising.

Often you will see commitments made by the department in the responses. I try to ensure that those commitments are realized or implemented. We have started to do some audit work in this area.

The process works. Canadians get real results from their requests. We receive questions about everything from fish habitat protection to environmental assessment to climate change issues.

More than one department may be asked to answer. We have a chapter dealing with that. You have the entire description of the petitions that we have received in a year. You can access all the petitions through our Web site.

You may have constituents or Canadians that go directly to you on an issue that you may not be able to answer or it can take a while before the department gives you an answer that you can give back to them. You can use this process. It is easy. You just tell them: "Call the commissioner. Send your question to her." It need be only a one-pager.

The Deputy Chairman: May I suggest that if you do an op-ed page, explain the process and put it on your Web site. You will be flooded with requests.

Ms. Gélinas: That is a good idea, Madam Chair. We will make note of it. You will be the first to have a copy of the op-ed piece to put in the newspaper.

Senator Watt: My question is related but I am not sure whether it is in the framework of your mandate. I am concerned with the scientific communities having a certain amount of difficulties receiving attention from the various authorities. I am talking about people who are producing new technologies to answer the crisis that we are going through on reducing emissions. Hydrogenics is one example.

There are many scientific communities out there that are trying to produce technology that would be useful for the planet for tomorrow. They do have a great deal of difficulty getting the proper attention. They also require some financial aid in order to complete their research and things of that nature.

Is there any way, as an environmental watch dog, you could include in your recommendations that the scientific community needs better access to the various departments with which they need to deal.

I am approached many times. I get involved with those outside communities. They are doing good work but they are under strain.

They are not quite sure of their future. One minute they think that they are ahead of a potential competitor and then they discover that they are far behind. It is not helping. I would like to put that on the record. You might want to take a look at that and see what could be done to improve that aspect.

The Deputy Chairman: This information sheet that you have provided is a good blueprint for how we can get the departments to appear before us and question them on their means and methods. Also, apart from the ethanol, it seems most of the information is very much directed to the future. In other words it is negotiations and so on.

I know that your mandate is not to tell the federal government what to do. However, I am sure that in your examination you have come across programs that are mandatory and achieve results. I think in particular of California and the way in which the utilities managed to accomplish amazing results through the public benefit charge in about six months. Our researcher may correct me, but not only did California reduce use, but also saved $2 billion, which is quite an amazing result.

Is there some way in which, through your organization — and we have the same mandate — to suggest programs that they could use? However, I wish to ask you some specific questions as well. First, in the government's action plan 2000, they say that the Canadian Fuel Cell Alliance Program will reduce greenhouse gases by 0.09 megatons by 2010. It is unclear to me how a development demonstration program could, in and of itself, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Are the greenhouse gas emissions linked to other activities? Have you examined this issue? What does that mean?

Ms. Gélinas: I will deal first with your comment and then I will let Mr. Pelland give you the detail on this program.

Without telling the government what it should or should not do, we have ways by which we can raise good examples like the one the deputy chair has raised. We can ask questions and by using examples like the one in California, in a case study where we will say here is what is going on in other countries, for example, why can we not implement that in Canada? By asking the question, then, we give you the opportunity after we issue a report to address that same question and perhaps ask for details or a report on what is going on. That is the only real way that we can get at some aspects like the one raised.

The Deputy Chairman: I have not read your report thoroughly. I have only read the executive summary. I intend to read it all. I take it that that is not an examination of other successful programs in other countries. That is not part of this report.

Ms. Gélinas: That is correct.

The Deputy Chairman: That might be a valuable report to make.

Ms. Gélinas: May we return to your first question?

The Deputy Chairman: Please.

Mr. Pelland: The Canadian Fuel Cell Alliance Program is a demonstration project, so it is not necessarily a national thing with the big picture, hydrogen economy out there. The expected results are somewhat constrained just by the fact that it is demonstrating, I believe, five fuelling stations in different parts in Western Canada over a period of five years. That is the result they expect to get.

The Deputy Chairman: Do you mean even from that demonstration program?

Mr. Pelland: Yes, from that demonstration program, and it is also based on using carbon-based fuels to produce the hydrogen. Obviously if non-carbon-based fuels are being used things would be even better. If you apply that nationally, the technology is there, but it is just to demonstrate the technology of the fuel cells as well as the fuelling stations themselves, how many cars can fuel at one fuelling station in a given day because there may be limitations with the current technology, so it is to enhance that technology.

The Deputy Chairman: Is that a five-year program?

Mr. Pelland: Yes.

Ms. Gélinas: You have to note that it is five fuel stations with five cars and one bus to do the demonstration.

Mr. Pelland: They hope to get more cars, but that is another program and will have to come from another source.

The Deputy Chairman: I see. In the case study where you looked at three initiatives — Off Ramp, Turn It Off and Active and Safe Routes to School — was there a cost benefit performed on these initiatives, such as how much did it cost and what was the benefit?

Ms. Gélinas: This is one of the concerns that we raise in our chapter. It is not clear at this stage what will be the benefit of those programs. What we are asking is in the accountability framework there are some shortcomings that the department must address so that a couple of years from now, when those programs will be up and running, we will be able to come back and the department will be able to tell you what is the cost benefit in some way of those programs.

The Deputy Chairman: Was it not possible to do cost benefit?

Ms. Gélinas: No, not at this stage.

Mr. Affleck: Where the Achilles heel is, so to speak, is setting up front the clear and concrete performance expectations, what you can expect from this initiative. Then you can report back against it.

The Deputy Chairman: That is a very important point.

Ms. Gélinas: That is the key message for this whole chapter.

The Deputy Chairman: It would be important to get to that stage and I will tell you why. In the entire community that wants to advocate for specific measures, including us, it would be helpful to coalesce around the most cost-beneficial issue. In other words, if by 20 programs you will reduce by 0.9 per cent and by one program you can reduce by 20 per cent, well, that is what you should push for, as I say, like the one in California. They got a big bang for their buck. It would be interesting when we could possibly get to that stage.

We know in advance that if we put a tax on fuel, or if we did what California did in all of our utilities, we would probably get a big bang.

Ms. Gélinas: In regard to that comment, you get right to the heart of the chapter we did, Madam Chair. At some point, Canadians and parliamentarians will need that information to determine what projects are working well, which ones are not working well and then ask the question: Why do we not put more money into those projects that have a good return of investment instead of others?

That is why we have done this audit in the very early stage. We have looked at three programs, but our conclusions can apply across the board. The accountability framework will be needed in every single program that the government will put in place in the climate change area, but that could also apply elsewhere. What we always have to keep in mind — and Senator Christensen was referring to the whole crisis and the energy crisis many years ago — that things have changed. Now this government is working in partnerships, especially with respect to the climate change issues. That is why it is so important to ensure that everyone has clear roles and responsibilities so we will know who was supposed to deliver on what and ensure that the job has been done in this area. The accountability framework is key to answer all of the questions that you are raising today and in the future.

The Deputy Chairman: My next question is about the Turn It Off project. You say the project reduced the incidence of engine idling by 32 per cent and the duration of the idling by 73 per cent. Can you give us an idea of the methodology used to arrive at those figures? Do you know whether the behaviour was permanent or temporary?

Mr. Pelland: This program that we looked at was a pilot project in the Toronto area. The Turn It Off program was geared at major areas where cars would be potentially parked and idling, if not for the program, such as major bus stops and school areas. This program is now being applied at the national level, and Natural Resources Canada is in the process of promoting a national anti-idling program.

The methodology used to arrive at the results was basically having people at these locations and recording the data as to the number of cars that were there and the duration that they were taking to turn off their engines compared to some baseline data that they had before.

Mr. Affleck: One of the senators mentioned earlier about the performance of engaging our provincial partners. I could not agree more. When we looked at this anti-idling issue, one of the things that first came to mind is the remote car starters that people fire up in the middle of the winter and the cars sit there for half an hour idling. With Ms. Gélinas's mandate we only look at issues of federal jurisdiction so we could not get at that, but certainly those things are not good for climate change.

The Deputy Chairman: It is only a few minutes. It is not so terrible to get into a cold car.

Senator Merchant: Do you think it is important to maybe get some champions when we have somebody like the new governor of California, who says that he is an environmentalist, but then apparently in his garage he has all kinds of guzzlers. It really makes people sceptical about what we say we will do and what we actually do. I do not know what that has to with you, but I think champions are important.

Ms. Gélinas: Absolutely. The environment is not an area where we have too many champions so we need to find more.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you for coming. Hopefully we can be in touch. If we have any further questions or comments we will contact you through cyberspace or by mail.

The committee adjourned.