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

Issue 2 - Evidence - March 12, 2009


OTTAWA, Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 8:03 a.m. to examine and report on emerging issues related to its mandate.

Senator W. David Angus (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning everyone. We are being broadcast on CPAC this morning.

My name is David Angus. I represent the province of Quebec in the Senate and I am the chair of this committee.

[English]

I would like to welcome all honourable senators and members of the public with us in this room and viewers all across the country who are watching us on TV or on the Web.

Our mandate in the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is to examine legislation and matters relating to energy, the environment and natural resources, generally.

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the senators who are with us this morning, beginning with the Deputy Chair, Senator Grant Mitchell, from Alberta.

Starting on my right is Senator Pana Merchant, from Saskatchewan; Senator Bert Brown, from Alberta; my predecessor, the esteemed Senator Tommy Banks from Alberta; Senator Richard Neufeld from British Columbia; and Senator Daniel Lang from the Yukon.

To my left is Senator Lorna Milne. To her left is Senator Nick Sibbeston, from the Northwest Territories; Senator Robert Peterson, from Saskatchewan; and Senator Willie Adams from Nunavut.

Senator Adams, I was looking at the list last night. You are coming up for retirement sooner than I would have wished. We will have to get up to Rankin Inlet. We also have Senator Mira Spivak, from Manitoba.

I would especially like to welcome our witnesses, who are involved with and of whom one is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Division of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. We have Mr. Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and with him is Jim McKenzie, Principal, and Neil Maxwell, Assistant Auditor General. Welcome to you all. We have received your presentations in both official languages.

Mr. Vaughan, we have fond memories of your predecessor, Ms. Gélinas, who always told it the way it was and we have great expectations of you. I know you have been travelling, so thank you for finding time for us and I hope you will enjoy the experience.

Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Thank you very much for inviting us. This is my first appearance before this important committee and I am pleased to join honourable senators this morning to inform you about our ongoing work. As you mentioned, with me this morning is Neil Maxwell, Assistant Auditor General, and Jim McKenzie, Principal, as well as George Stuetz, Director, as well as colleagues for the Parliamentary Liaison of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada are also here.

Let me begin by giving you a brief overview of our mandate.

[Translation]

On behalf of the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development provides parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government's efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.

We carry out these responsibilities under several acts. First, under the Auditor General Act, our office conducts performance audits and monitors departmental progress on whether activities designed to respond to federal environment and sustainable development policies are being implemented effectively and are delivering results.

We also manage the environmental petitions process that enables Canadians to obtain responses directly from federal ministers on specific environmental and sustainable development issues under federal jurisdiction.

[English]

Under the 2008 federal Sustainable Development Act, our office reviews and comments on the federal government's Sustainable Development Strategy. We also monitor and report on the extent to which federal departments contribute to meeting the targets and goals set out in the federal Sustainable Development Strategy. It may interest honourable senators to know that Environment Canada is currently working on a draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and it should be ready by 2010 or before.

[Translation]

Under the 2007 Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, our office will monitor the federal government's progress in implementing its climate change plans and in meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Our office will prepare a report on this subject every two years up to 2012.

We will also provide Parliament with observations and recommendations on any matter that the Commissioner considers relevant.

[English]

I would like is to turn to our December 2008 report, which was tabled in Parliament on February 5, 2009.

[Translation]

In Chapter 3, we reviewed environmental programming at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. While agriculture generates billions of dollars for Canada's economy, pollution from the farm sector also represents a significant environmental burden. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has spent $370 million to encourage farm practices that protect the environment. However, after five years, the department cannot show whether these environmental programs are leading to improvements in environmental quality on the farm.

We also looked at Environment Canada's management of severe weather warnings to Canadians. Severe weather events like tornadoes and blizzards can result in injury or loss of life and can cause significant damage. Being able to issue advance warnings accurately allows Canadians to prepare.

[English]

We found that the department lacks an effective national approach to verify the timeliness and the accuracy of the more than 10,000 severe weather warnings it issues each year. We also found that the assets of its weather observation network, including radar and surface stations, are not managed adequately today to ensure the department can continue providing the data needed by the department to issue and verify severe weather warnings into the future.

[Translation]

As severe weather events are expected to become even more severe and frequent due to climate change, we recommend that Environment Canada adopt a long-term strategy to guide its decisions.

Our report also discusses examples of measures the government has used to reduce air pollution. In order to be credible to Canadians and the rest of the world, the government's programs for reducing air pollution must be able to produce measurable results. In that respect, most of what our audit found was disappointing.

[English]

For example, we looked at the regulations on gas pumps aimed at limiting the release of toxic vapours, such as benzene, when people refuel their cars and trucks. We found that Environment Canada's enforcement of these regulations had been minimal. As a result, the department does not know whether the regulations are working.

[Translation]

Another example of an information gap is the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund. From this fund, $1.5 billion has been transferred to the provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Environment Canada claims that important reductions, such as reducing greenhouse gases by 16 megatonnes per year between 2008 and 2012, will be achieved, but it has no way to clearly measure the impact of the funding.

We also reviewed the reduction targets attributed to the Public Transit Tax Credit. We found that actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were negligible or disappointing relative to the $635 million cost.

[English]

We also audited the pollution prevention plan to lower the emissions of acrylonitrile. We found that since the substance was declared toxic almost eight years ago, totals emissions have increased threefold at the national level. The February report also includes chapters on the environmental petitions process and sustainable development strategies.

I will now turn briefly to some of our upcoming work that may be of interest to the committee. Later this month, we will table a status report on the government's progress in implementing an air quality health index and a second status report on federal responsibility on safety of drinking water. In May, we intend to table our first report under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, as well as an audit of fish habitat under Mr. Maxwell's group. In November, we will report on the compliance of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the management of toxic chemicals, among other issues. Also in November, we will be releasing a study on different management practices to support sustainable development.

We have already begun work on an audit on the federal government's management of climate change. We are also contributing to an international effort involving 14 national offices looking at climate change. A collective report will be ready in November 2010 describing different approaches to managing and auditing climate change.

[Translation]

In closing, I would like to say that the government has an important role to play in protecting the environment and the health of Canadians, and in moving toward sustainable development. Unfortunately, all too often, the government does not know the impact of its efforts.

[English]

Our office considers parliamentary committees to be invaluable in promoting transparency and accountability in government's management of the environment. We have found that when senior departmental officials appear at the same time as ourselves before committee to review a particular chapter of our report, committees can perform a unique role in holding departments to account and providing information to Parliament on their planned corrective measures.

That concludes my opening statement. We will be happy to answer any questions the committee members may have.

Senator Merchant: I will begin by asking what you are measuring against. What is the gold standard? Are you measuring against the performance in California, Europe or elsewhere?

Second, do you exist somewhere else in another part of the world? Do you know what I am trying to ask?

Mr. Vaughan: In the context of the reports I have mentioned, we measured against the objectives that the department had set. For example, for the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund, the government, through Environment Canada, set out an objective of 16 megatonnes per year or 80 megatonnes over the five-year duration. That was what we measured against.

It was the same for targets that the government has set out for other programs. As auditors, we ask whether the department has done what it said it would do, we ask if they know whether they are doing it, and we ask if there is evidence to provide us with assurances that they have achieved their targets.

Are there larger issues related to measuring performance of environmental quality more generally? There is a lot of different work done. I came from Sweden and Norway last week where the European Union is looking at different ways to measure environmental indicators and progress.

Probably the best way to characterize Canada's position is that there are some areas where it is very good at measuring actual environmental quality changes and there are other areas where gaps exist. Statistics Canada and the new chief statistician are developing a new set of ecological indicators. This may be of interest to the committee because it is an important area.

In response to your second question, I exist in some other dimensions. New Zealand and the United Kingdom have commissioners; Ontario and Quebec have commissioners. They all have slightly different mandates, but I think we are united in the sense of providing information on accountability and transparency to our Parliaments.

Senator Merchant: You are another check on performance. I think that the minister, deputy minister and the PCO keep track of how things are working. You make a public disclosure. Are you viewed as a constructive agent or do you have difficulty to obtain the information you want from governments because they may see you as the enemy?

Mr. Vaughan: I have only been at this job 10 months. Generally, there are legal obligations under the auditor general acts. It is usually an obligation on the departments to provide information to auditors when a team is sent. A team will generally conduct an audit in 15 to 16 months from start to finish. There is back and forth and close working relations with the departments.

First, in terms of disclosure of information, there are few exceptions to this. Second, most departments view having the scrutiny of auditors a reflection of the importance of their work. Departmental officials have often said they welcome the audit because they welcome the chance to appear before committees such as yours to bring forward how their program is working and opportunities to improve them.

Senator Banks: Good morning, gentlemen. My understanding is that you do not ever tell the government what it ought to do. You say this is what the government said it would do and here is the extent to which it has achieved that objective. That has been the case since your office was established. Is that correct?

Mr. Vaughan: Yes.

Senator Banks: Is it still the view — as it was by you, your predecessors and this committee periodically over the years — that the problem does not exist in the making of environmental law, but in the means by which its effect is measured; and second — and no less important — the means by which that law can be enforced?

Mr. Vaughan: You are right on the first question Senator Banks. It is not our role to tell the government what they should be doing in terms of policy. That is a role for government. We are careful not to cross the bridge to the policy side. We look at what the programs have said they are doing and how they are doing.

In terms of the second part of your question, your characterization is absolutely right. Obviously, crafting legislation is a complicated process, but once that is complete, the real challenge, which is not just here in Canada but also, from my experience, in almost every other country, is the difficulty of translating laws from books to programs. As you said, one is the monitoring process to know how you are doing, but the second process involves the tools and mechanisms to support effective enforcement. It remains a challenge because of budgetary and resource issues and because managing the environment is inherently complex.

Senator Banks: The analogy that has been made before, to oversimplify, is that it would be all very well to have a law against burglary, but if there are no policemen, the fact of the law existing by itself would have no effect at all on burglars.

You referred to an audit to find out whether the government is able to notify people when a bad weather system is coming. I do not know whether you noticed, but in Alberta, there is, unique among Canadian provinces, a province-wide single-push-of-the-button means of interrupting every broadcast undertaking, radio and/or television, for the purposes of such an announcement. That is done on a voluntary basis by the cooperation of, I believe, 100 per cent of broadcasters in Alberta — every radio and television station that is operated with the assistance of the Government of Canada by the CKUA radio network. We have been advocating in other committees some of us belong to for having that capacity not just for weather patterns but also for notifying large numbers of citizens instantly about other types of important events.

Did you find that question is at least being looked at on a national basis so that the people who are on the front line and who manage weather events or otherwise, can, at some point, push a button and tell everyone in the most efficient way possible that they should either evacuate or batten down the hatches?

Mr. Vaughan: With respect to the issuing of the severe weather warning systems, there are two questions: First, are they accurate, in advance, and do they give enough warning; second, are they being heard? Are Canadians aware of them? That remains a key challenge. There are different examples, including the national system in the United States, where you get a broadband underneath the television screen.

We know that the CRTC said a few years ago that if the Canadian broadcasters did not come forward with a voluntary system to provide the types of warning to which you refer, the CRTC would come back at the end of March of 2009, the timetable they have set, I believe, and look at a mandatory system. You can have the best warning systems in the world, but if people are not aware of them, they do not have much value.

Senator Banks: In that respect, the CRTC's position has at least to some degree been affected by the recommendation of another committee of the Senate, which said precisely that participation in such a plan should be made a condition of licences.

Jim McKenzie, Principal, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: In regard to the public alerting system, we note in our chapter that there is no national public alerting system, but we recognize that there have been efforts to establish such a system. Environment Canada has been involved in those efforts for some time now in terms of developing a national system. Environment Canada has one tool at its disposal called the Weatheradio Network, which allows it to send out alerts automatically to individuals who have a weather radio. As a result, it pushes the warning out so that people do not have to seek it. It will alert people automatically.

We made a recommendation that Environment Canada look at ways of improving its own push technology, so to speak. We were encouraged that the department accepted that recommendation and is looking at how it can, working in parallel with the federal government as a whole and private broadcasters and the CRTC, improve its effectiveness and the reach of its own technologies and tools.

There are efforts underway with respect to a public alerting system writ large, but Environment Canada is active also with respect to its own weather radio technologies.

Senator Banks: The weather radio warning system is terrific if you happen to have a weather radio and if you happen to have it on. The frustration that I have is that efforts in this direction have been going on now for nearly seven years, and it is astonishing to me that we have not yet been able to cut through the red tape and just get it done.

We have many tornadoes in Alberta, and the effective use of that system has saved lives. I hope we will move in the direction you are talking to do it nationally.

The Chair: You made reference to another committee of the Senate having made a recommendation along those lines. Could you name that committee?

Senator Banks: It was the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

Senator Peterson: I would like to follow up on your reviewed environmental programming at Agriculture Canada. You said they spent $370 million, but after five years, there was no discernible improvement in their efforts. What would be some of the examples of the farm practices that you had laid out or measured against?

Mr. Vaughan: I will ask my colleague, Mr. Maxwell, who was the leader on that chapter, to speak about that.

Neil Maxwell, Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada: I will start on a positive note. Agriculture Canada has done quite a good job — still a lot of work to do — in terms of trying to measure the overall environmental impacts of agriculture. This is an example that Mr. Vaughan mentioned earlier about the importance of the government having a good sense of the impacts of its various different programs on the environment. As he said, some are good and some are bad. There have been many positive developments in terms of overall indicators to show, for example, how well agricultural producers are sequestering carbon within the soil, in other words, fighting climate change by capturing carbon right in the soil structure.

There were some good things, but we were critical. Our overall conclusion was that $370 million was being spent without enough information. These overall indicators have positive aspects, but there are only six of them, so they are only measuring six impacts that Agriculture has on the environment. There are many other aspects that they themselves recognize they need to develop.

Senator Peterson: What are they? Has anyone consulted with farmers? Do they know what you are trying to do? Have you talked to them?

Senator Brown could probably help us with this. Do they know what you are trying to do? You have not given me an example. What are they not doing?

Mr. Maxwell: In one of the programs, they have been giving money to farm groups to sit down with farmers so the farmers can develop what they call an "environmental farm plan." This is a plan that a farmer would have of his or her own acreage to identify the environmental risks. It could be something as simple as cattle in the little creek running through the property. The first step is the agriculture producers identifying where those environmental impacts are, and then they come up with a plan.

The plan could be as simple as building a fence. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will support that plan. The department will help subsidize the cost of building that fence. There are a number of these practical programs in place. Our overall issue was that when you add up all the costs of these different programs the sum is $370 million.

The department is not producing or presenting to the Canadian public or to parliamentarians much information about the actual impacts of those programs. Through all these interventions, such as helping farmers build fences, have they really been able to deal with the full extent of the environmental impacts that agriculture is producing on the environment?

Mr. Vaughan: To complement Mr. Maxwell's comments, one of the merits of the program is that Ottawa did not tell the farmers that they had to tackle specific environmental targets; it was the other way around. The farmers were asked what they felt was their biggest environmental risk. They asked the farmers if their farms could be at risk to the environment in so many ways including water pollution from pesticides; nitrogen runoff; loss of topsoil quality; loss of habitats and wetlands; or, as Mr. Maxwell said, cattle runoff into streams and lakes.

The merit of this program is it was not top-down. Fifty-five thousand producers have come forward with their own environmental plans. That part of the program has been to try to build partnerships, because no one understands the pressures on the farms better than the farmers that run them.

In asking the farmers to identify their environmental risks or problems, the difficulty is that disclosure remained confidential, because public disclosure could mean a potential liability issue. Therefore, there was not a bridge between the risk that the farmers identified and the ability of the department to measure that risk, because the information itself remained confidential. That was one of the disconnects within the program.

Senator Milne: You tell us there are 55,000 farms that have developed environmental plans for environmental farming. I have yet to hear of a farmer for whom Agriculture Canada has subsidized the building of a fence.

Mr. Maxwell: Certainly those programs are working. Again, maybe that is a good illustration of our point. We are quite critical that the department must report much more about the impacts of its programs and what it is actually doing. Perhaps the fact that you have not heard is an indication they need to do better reporting.

Senator Milne: I would really like to know if you could find out for me how many fences have actually been built through this program. Is it possible to do so? I have very strong doubts about it.

Mr. Maxwell: We would be quite happy to get you more details on the program. That program spent, through the five-year course of the federal-provincial agreements under which it has been operating, about $176 million.

I mentioned fences as a concrete example. There was quite a range of things. Again, these environmental farm plans would then identify what was really needed. It might be on-farm storage of manure, for example, to deal with the environmental impacts of nitrogen run-off. It was not always fences.

Senator Milne: I still want to know how many fences.

The Chair: Are you able to provide us with that information?

Mr. Maxwell: Certainly. If it is not in our files, I am sure the department would be happy to provide us with that information.

The Chair: Send it in to the Clerk of the Committee, please.

Senator Spivak: What about outcomes? Do you, for example, look at the quality of water to see if anything has really happened to mitigate the pesticide runoff?

Mr. Maxwell: Thank you for that question, senator. We do have concerns in that area. The extent to which they are reporting what is happening — and it is limited — is largely about what government bureaucrats often call "outputs." These are the things like fences.

What they are not reporting nearly enough about is what the actual outcomes are. Are the outcomes enough to deal with the extent of damages that agriculture can create on the environment?

Senator Spivak: Are you recommending to the government what outcomes one would expect from this expenditure? It is not an awful lot of money.

Mr. Maxwell: As Mr. Vaughan pointed out earlier, we do not comment on policy. We would never say that Agriculture Canada is not doing enough; it should be spending more money on fences. When we look at the level of measurement and the reporting of outcomes to Canadians and parliamentarians, we look back and ask if they are measuring all the things that are important.

In this instance, I mentioned earlier that there are six different indicators thus far — and good for them that they have gotten that far — but they are very limited. For example, they measure nitrogen runoff, but not many of the other nutrients that we know — from scientific research — are causing great problems in terms of waterways, fish habitats, and so on.

Senator Milne: I would like to turn to Chapter 2 of your report, on managing severe weather warnings. On page 7, point 2.15, you talk about sharing data with organizations within Canada such as the Weather Network. It has been brought to my attention that the CRTC is considering moving this channel from basic cable, thus forcing Canadians to pay an extra fee to receive the Weather Network. It seems to me, that the Weather Network is the closest thing we have to a public-warning system in this country.

Do you have any opinion about that?

Mr. Vaughan: That may be information that has come to light after the completion of the audit.

Senator Milne: I think the CRTC was holding hearings on it last week.

Mr. Vaughan: Generally, one of the critical points of the chapter is that the network provides a public service that must be available to all Canadians. We pointed out, for example, that there are gaps in the North in terms of coverage, and that to remain a public service it must remain as widely accessible as possible to all Canadians. How the CRTC or others would interpret that would probably be outside of our audit.

Senator Milne: What do you think about using the Weather Network as a substitute, while Public Safety and Environment Canada figure out how to establish a national network?

Mr. McKenzie: Senator Milne, you have raised an important issue. Mr. Vaughan is correct in saying that our position with respect to where the Weather Network would end up on the spectrum in terms of channels and costs is a policy issue that rests with the government and the CRTC. However, it raises an important issue with respect to people's access to information with respect to severe weather warnings, and one that the federal government must consider carefully. It would certainly benefit from the input of a wide variety of stakeholders in terms of their use, and also the value that they get from the Weather Network.

As you say, in the absence of a national alerting system, the Weather Network fills an important niche. That is not to say that other avenues do not exist. For example, Environment Canada's Internet site is useful in terms of posting weather warnings, and they have telephone service.

However, as you said, the Weather Network is accessible today to many Canadians, and it is an important issue that needs to be considered very carefully.

Senator Milne: Would you consider recommending to the government that there should be a national network? Not just farmers use this service but people in Ontario who also have a "tornado alley." Some residents of Toronto commute to and from work as many as a 100 miles a day make use of it. They need the road condition warnings that are available on the Weather Network.

Mr. McKenzie: I agree that a national network is important. It could be a national alerting network as opposed to a television network. That is important and we stress that point in our chapter. There is always a risk that, despite the various channels that exist for receiving weather warnings, someone may either miss that alert or not be alerted through traditional means. That is where a national alerting system could come in to minimize those risks and fill those gaps.

Senator Milne: I would like to congratulate Alberta.

Mr. Vaughan: It is not only Alberta. Nova Scotia is also on board. Late last year, over 100 people were stuck on the Trans-Canada Highway because of a blizzard that swept in without warning. There have been incidences elsewhere, such as in Manitoba that underscore the point that you can have the best system in the world but, as Senator Banks said, if you are not looking for the warning, then that system does not have a great deal of value.

The Environment Canada website for the weather system is the single most-visited website of the federal government. Many Canadians are interested in the weather. The most vulnerable groups are schools, hospitals and old-age homes. That is where the mobility of people is limited and those warnings are absolutely critical. Any means, both on the "push" and the "pull" means, is something the federal government must absolutely look at.

Senator Milne: On page 12 in this chapter, you say that:

Environment Canada manages almost 700 surface weather observation stations and more than 300 reference climate stations. . . . The Department has set standards for the number of preventive maintenance visits required per station per year, but it is currently not able to meet them.

How often are they being maintained? Are they being maintained one-half or one-quarter of the time they should be? What is the existing standard?

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for that question. Mr. McKenzie can correct me if I am wrong. The overall status of the network is an important finding of the chapter. As you see, it is complicated by numbers.

I believe the visitation to the stations has dropped from six to four a year. More important, when the team went in and asked Environment Canada, "How much are you spending on regular maintenance? How much are you spending on repairs? How much do you need to keep the system up?" Especially, as the system ages, you need to know how much it will cost to replace and repair the system.

I think the answer was that they do not have a clear idea how much they are spending on maintenance and repairs. This becomes worrisome as the system ages. The Doppler radar stations are coming up to their half life now. As these technologies become older, the cost of running them escalates.

This was important in terms of the future durability of a complex system, which is now facing some important shortfalls in terms of the resources going in. We made recommendations on that and the department has accepted the need to put in place an overall view of what the system looks like today. They need to know how much it needs to keep it running and what replacement schedules are needed to ensure that the system will remain viable in the future.

Senator Milne: When they receive that information, would you be able to provide that to us or is that just between you and the department?

Mr. Vaughan: Given the critical importance, we plan to go back in two years. We have the recommendations in the chapter and the department has accepted all the recommendations. We will go back in two years on what is called the status report to ask whether they have done what they said they would do. The team will go back in 2011 and determine how they are doing on those very points.

Mr. McKenzie: As Mr. Vaughan pointed out, the cost issue is important. We draw particular attention in our chapter to the fact that it is not a snapshot in time in terms of cost but that trend-related information is particularly important. That will inform the department, over time, whether it is costing us more to keep our networks at a certain level or if it is costing us the same.

It is the integration of cost-related information along with the performance-related information of the network that can provide that more holistic perspective with respect to the state of the network, which can ultimately inform investment decisions with respect to replacement. It may help the department understand whether we have to invest next year or if we can wait a couple of years. Therefore, it is a combination of that trend information with respect to how much it costs to maintain the network as well as the performance of the network, which can better inform investment decisions.

Senator Sibbeston: I interpret your report as scathing and critical of the government. Coming from the Office of the Auditor General, I assume that is what you do: You review government and give a critical eye to its efforts.

Governments purport to want to do something about global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution and have programs to do so. Your analysis of whether the programs for dealing with these problems are effective is critical.

In your report, you state that the government spends a great deal of money without, in some instances, knowing whether the expenditures have had positive results.

If the federal government is not living up to its commitment, such as limiting the release of toxic chemicals, are there mechanisms in place for the public to pressure the government to act? If so, how well do they work?

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for that question. To recap on the climate change issue, you are correct. We looked at the Public Transit Tax Credit and the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund. The transit credit cost $635 million. On both counts, we said either there is not a means of knowing how they are doing or the results were disappointing or negligible. The government set a target of 80 megatonnes and we do not know whether those goals will be met by 2012.

In terms of whether the public has recourse if programs are not working, there are different ways in which the public can find information. We run an environmental petition process whereby a Canadian resident can write to obtain information. The minister has a legal obligation to respond to within 120 days. There are different ways in which the public can find out how the government is doing. However, at the end of the day, the ultimate issue of accountability and transparency is Parliament. This is what the critical role of Parliament is; namely, to hold the government to account on exactly the types of questions that you are asking.

Senator Sibbeston: Global warming and climate change are especially important to the people in the North. Most of the pollution comes from the South; we are affected in a large way by activities and pollution from the south. The North has witnessed enhanced evidence of changes with respect to different weather patterns such as an earlier spring and different birds and insects coming north. There is some evidence of global warning. That matter of the federal government doing something and having a handle on that whole issue is very important.

You say in your report that you have already started work on an audit of the federal government's management of climate change. Can climate change really be managed or are we more or less just recording the occurrences and trying to reduce the level of pollution to lessen the effects?

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for the question as well as the observation. I wish to underscore that you are absolutely correct. The impacts of climate change in northern latitudes will be more severe and pronounced than they will be in southern parts of the country. In an audit in 2006, the office made that very observation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, in their 2007 report said there is scientific certainty that the North will be disproportionately affected by climate change and its impacts. The impacts range from already observed melting of permafrost to, as you said, earlier springs, shorter seasons and the dislocation of both migratory species and populations living in the North. These will be dramatic and we do not know the longer-term impacts of this change.

In answer to your question, the general way of approaching climate change has been two-fold. First, how do you lower greenhouse gas emissions? That has been the basis of intensive work and preceded the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is the international mechanism to coordinate national approaches on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC, in its 2007 report, said that the scientific evidence of climate change is unequivocal and that the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is extremely strong. There is no lingering scientific question of the relationship. The first question is how do you lower greenhouses gas emissions through mitigation systems?

Second, how do you start bringing about adaptation policy? I think you were alluding to this, senator. Adaptation starts with doing vulnerability assessments on which populations or regions are most at risk. In the Maritimes, we know it is their coastal areas. In Ontario, it will be fresh water scarcity. You have seen some of the forest fires in Australia. This may be a warning for what Canada will face in the future. The question is how do we prepare ourselves or get ready for what will be a fundamental change on how Canadians and the world have viewed climate expectations.

Senator Adams: Thank you for coming this morning, Mr. Vaughan. Living in the North, we are not affected by tornadoes, but we are affected by climate change. When I first moved to Rankin Inlet, we used to get winds up to 100 kilometres per hour. We have heard a lot about climate change. The local people say the pollution comes from around the world. We want to know where it is coming from. In the Arctic, the cold weather affects us more than anywhere else in the country. The winds affect both the land and the water. We know about climate change. I think India and the United States are the largest polluters, but they are not talking to us and they are the big problem.

My concern is that even mammals are affected. They are confused by the weather now. Every year, we see it more and more, especially with narwhals being trapped under the ice. Last November, we lost several whales. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says, "It is all right. We have no time to go up there. The ice breakers are in Newfoundland and Labrador or Halifax and it will take too long to go up there." Narwhals were caught in Pond Inlet. The department told us it was only 200 animals and we should harvest them. The people were able to bring them into their homes and use the hides, oil and the tusks. It ended up that there were 570 narwhales killed. That is a lot of whales to be killed in one month. It has been happening with beluga whales, too.

The Chair: Senator, will you have a question at some point? I am always fascinated about your tails regarding the North, but we need a question.

Senator Adams: The government needs to know what costs are involved. We are seeing climate change in the North. The mammals are affected. Those 570 narwhals died. The government told us that we could have a Coast Guard ship nearby that could help to save the narwhals so that they would not have to die.

The local people and elders are talking about this. In the old days, they said that the narwhals used to have four or five leaders out in the sea. When the ice was thick, they would float together under the ice to break it and get to the air. Now, however, they cannot do that. This is another cost.

Not all the scientists that go up there understand this and they need to see it. We have to work together to resolve climate change and how it is affecting mammals and our people. The snow and water levels are changing, too. Before the sea started to melt, there would always be water on top. In some places now there is snow on the top, the water melts and it leaves ice on the bottom. What is causing that? Many people have gone through the ice and some are drowning.

The Chair: Perhaps what you want to ask the witnesses is that given these facts, what would their view be on recommendations to the government to address these issues?

Senator Adams: Yes. The minister was up there a month ago and was shown communities such as Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Resolute Bay. There will be some equipment placed there to monitor change in the weather and pollution. However, we are not being trained to assemble and maintain the equipment. They understand how to do that in the South, but how are they monitoring it? After one year, if it does not work out, they will have spent over $80 million on that equipment and we do not know how to work with it. They need to work with the people in the community to provide those types of services. Someone should look into that issue.

A lot of times they talk about climate change, but we do not know much about it. They spend a lot of money, but that money needs to stay in the community because it is affecting us. They go to the North to see how much change there is. We need to work together. They spend the summer there and then report to the government, but no one reports to the community. Those types of recommendations should be included in the Auditor General's report.

The Chair: Let us hear what the witnesses have to say about that. Again, you are providing fascinating information to the committee.

Senator Sibbeston: This is a lesson in culture. The Inuit people like to tell stories and relate instances of their experiences.

The Chair: I have been on the committee. I love Senator Adams' stories, especially the story about the huskies that were tied up when the water came in due to climate change problems.

Senator Adams: It is more work for the people who live up there, especially the elders. They understand how the weather changes. Especially young people today, the Inuit need to know the weather. We have good community forecasts from Environment Canada. I can use my phone and listen to Environment Canada tell me what will happen with the weather at Rankin Inlet. People are not used to it but now you tell what the weather will be tomorrow. Now young people cannot tell today.

Mr. Vaughan: First, thank you for the comments. I know that this committee brought forward a report. I want to commend this committee on what I think is an outstanding report on climate change. Among the witnesses that the committee broad forward were the authors of the NRCan report. They looked at some of the issues related to climate adaptation and impacts, including in the North.

The senator has alluded to one of the findings of that report: What will be the impacts on mammals, not only whales but also, I think, on caribou and polar bears. The findings from that report have been traumatic and also the certainties are dramatic.

I would like to underscore that I strongly agree with you. The Auditor General has an advisory group of First Nations and also an Inuit advisory group. One of the recurring themes that they have brought to us is: If you are to get an idea of climate change, particularly in the North, setting up highly sophisticated monitoring systems will not give you the whole story. The real issues can be learned via the stories from traditional knowledge and from the elders. Unless you tap into that information, you will not see the whole picture. You can just drop in automated technology, which would do monitoring on changes in temperature, ice flows and in the tundra. The stories you are talking about are critical for having an idea of how scientific climate change translates into the generations of knowledge which the communities have. No instrument can replace that knowledge.

I strongly agree. It is one of the issues under discussion in terms of what the northern research stations will look like.

The Chair: Senator Adams, you might like to stay tuned. We have a report coming out shortly on a visit to the Western Arctic and North by this committee. That was in the last iteration of the committee in the last session of Parliament and the one before. That should be enlightening, as well. We hope to get the report out within a month.

Senator Lang: Thank you for coming here this morning. This concerns me a little bit. Being a new member of the Senate, this is really new information to me, when I read a report like this. Perhaps the senator from the Northwest Territories said it well: This is not a very positive report from the point of view of accomplishments, when you look at what you have reviewed and then, at the end of the day, what our success rate has been.

My concern is that, having experienced in a previous government, I know it is difficult to change how various departments do things over a short or even a long period of time. It seems to me that there must be some sort of follow-up on the fact that, for example, in emissions, there has been very little success from the point of view of regulations and results.

You touched on an area earlier and I believe it was the weather area. There is supposed to be a report in two years. A report like that should come back to a public forum so there is some accountability and so it does not just go to the commissioner's office. In that way, the next committee of the Senate or House of Commons can see how the money is being spent and whether we are getting value for our money.

Would the commissioner be prepared to accept the premise that, when you get these reports, they automatically come back to the committees that initially heard this initial report so there can be a follow-up and some accountability?

Mr. Vaughan: I underscore that our job is to provide you with this information. Any time that you want us to be before a committee, we will be here. We view your work as being absolutely critical to moving the yardstick forward, as you suggested.

In terms of our going back, as I have said about the severe weather warning system, we will go back and look at it in two years. We are also doing some follow-up that will get at some of the issues identified in the February report. For example, we looked at the management of a couple toxic chemicals. We will look at the broader approach and how Environment Canada is doing on this and other programs.

Climate change is a major undertaking for us. We will get many kicks at the can on this. This will be one of both a legal obligation, as well as a strong commitment of our office to keep looking at these issues.

Senator Lang: Another highlight in that report, which I think should be pointed out — and I think you put in your opening remarks — is the fact that you reviewed the Public Transit Tax Credit and found that actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions was negligible relative to the $635 million in costs. Where I come from, $635 million is a lot of money.

If that money is not doing what it is supposed to do, what happens to an observation like this? Does this go to the department and then the minister or whomever and they decide that maybe that money should be put elsewhere?

Mr. Vaughan: The observation goes to the department and to the minister. It is in the public domain. There was quite a bit of public interest in this, as well. Senator, $635 million is a lot of money where we come from, too.

In defence of the department, the minister said that the target for greenhouse gas emissions was one of the objectives. There were other objectives, such as reducing traffic congestion, there was giving Canadians a tax break, there was reducing overall air pollution, et cetera. All of those are laudable but we only looked at what we could measure. The only thing we could measure was the only target assigned to that $635 million, which was the greenhouse gas reduction target. We said it was negligible because, in relation to the total emissions that Canada generates, it represents around 0.005 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. That is why we said, in carefully chosen language, that it is either "negligible" or "disappointing."

Senator St. Germain: This might not be a supplementary question, but I am listening to this and I assume your responsibility is to establish value for dollars spent; it is not to set policy, as you say.

How do you evaluate climate change? I have a farm. If the farmers around me are not doing anything and I am running a pristine operation, do you take this into consideration in establishing value for dollars? I believe that unless some of these other countries in the world take corrective action — Senator Adams, Senator Sibbeston and all the people in the North will be victims of climate change.

If the very large polluters in the rest of the world are not taking corrective action, how do you evaluate the effects of climate change? You said that the Canadian percentage is minuscule. How do you report this back, or how do you see this as an organization?

Mr. Vaughan: You are correct, Senator St. Germain. First, climate change is a global issue. Second, the reason there has been a collective effort through the United Nations and others — the G8, the OECD, et cetera — to address this is issue is that the best actions of one country in isolation will not have a significant impact on overall emissions unless all countries act together. The whole debate on the Kyoto Protocol and the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen later this year is largely seen as the make or break in terms of the next Kyoto period. Currently, under Kyoto, the countries obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essentially industrialized countries. The debate is what happens with the non-industrialized countries — China, India, Brazil, Mexico and others.

Our mandate is to examine what the federal government is doing on this issue. We do not have the mandate to look outside of Canada to see what other countries are doing.

An interesting initiative involving our office is bringing 14 countries together to help examine how they are doing on auditing climate change issues. This will be ready for later next year. It is simply to underscore that this is an issue or challenge with which all countries are struggling.

Senator Lang: I want to go back to the issue of weather warnings. It is not a question whether warnings are on the web or television; the key factor for those people who could be in trouble is the radio. It is very important that this system be refined. Perhaps, we should use CBC as our public broadcaster to alert people when there will be a tornado or snowstorm.

I will follow on the lead of my colleague, Senator Adams. The trucker on the Dempster Highway in the Yukon, who is on his way to Inuvik, must have an efficient system to warn him of an oncoming storm. Many tragedies have occurred because truckers and others have not been warned of imminent danger. One has only to imagine how serious an accident can be when it is minus 35 Celsius.

I am amazed that we are in this situation in this day and age. We lack a national warning system that should become second nature, like 911.

We talk about a two-year reporting back period, but I feel that this high priority item that should be examined and put in place, possibly following on the lead of Alberta.

Senator Banks: With respect to Alberta, it is important that Canadians do not have to go to a single channel or a single radio station, whether it is CBC or otherwise. In the case of Edmonton, there are 27 radio stations in the city. When the button is pushed by the early warning authority to say something, everyone listening to every radio station — commercial, CBC, francophone, multi-language, et cetera — hears that message immediately, regardless of what radio station they are listening to or what television station they are watching. Every single form of broadcast is covered.

The Chair: There are many examples in the United States. The point has been well made.

Senator Neufeld: I agree with Senator Banks that the alert has to be on every radio station. If you only put it on the CBC, I am not sure how many people would hear it.

I want to touch briefly on environmental programming with agriculture. I believe that almost all farms in British Columbia have an environmental plan in place or are very close to it. This report says, "However, after five years, the department cannot show whether these environmental programs are leading to improvements in environmental quality on the farm."

I assume that this is a shared responsibility between the federal government and the provincial governments, which both have funds. That indicates to me that the inspections needed to determine whether they are working are not happening. That may be due to a number of factors. It could be because of budget constraints; because you cannot hire enough inspectors; or, that if you hired inspectors and sent them to farmers, some of them may not come back. Honestly, I live in a part of the province with very large farms where the last thing they want is an inspector from Ottawa checking whether they are doing things right after having farmed for two or three generations. That does not mean some farms are not following the rules.

I have faith that farmers who live on the land, much the same as people in the North, who live off the land, are the people who will protect their land and resources as much as possible because that is their livelihood.

I am not a firm believer that we need 1,000 reports sitting on a desk that someone will read sometime to see whether someone complies with the rules. I understand there is a need for it. I will compare it to speed limits. We have speed limits set across Canada by the provinces. If you did reports on whether people are adhering to the speed limit, I suggest you would have the same report. There are not enough police officers or inspectors to check every speed zone to see if people are abiding by it. I have good faith in the farming community especially to look after what they have to do.

Would you agree with me to some degree that it is the inspection part that needs to be addressed? I am not encouraging Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to hire a large number of inspectors, but that is part of the problem. You do not have all the information and that could only be acquired by someone going on a farm and to see if a fence is built. I agree with Senator Milne. I have not heard of a fence funded by Agri-Food Canada. Maybe there is and we are simply missing out in the part of the country where I live.

Mr. Vaughan: I will respond quickly and hand it over to Mr. Maxwell. I agree with you that the report does not say that environmental quality improvements have not taken place because of these programs. I think you are alluding to this. It is not the inspection process, but whether there is a way to report on the environmental quality outcomes of those types of expenditures.

It is not to say they were not taking place. I agree with you that I do not think it was inspectors going to farms. However, is there some way — either voluntary or otherwise — to measure the impact of this on the challenges farmers are facing?

Mr. Maxwell: To add to that, we were not calling for more inspections. That was not the thrust of it; it was around an important, fundamental point, which is that there is $370 million involved.

By not having a better handle on what kind of impacts are happening, the department is doing a disservice in two ways: the department is not able to demonstrate to taxpayers and parliamentarians what kind of impact that expenditure is having and, it may well be doing a disservice to agriculture producers, as well. To the extent there is a good story to be told, good impacts are happening. That story is not being told. I hear that in your remarks and Senator Milne's earlier. That is up to the federal department because that is where the money is coming from to be able to get that information to all Canadians.

The Chair: On that point, Senator Milne is pointing out an anomaly on the numbers.

Senator Milne: Mr. Maxwell, you told me that $176 million went into the Environmental Farm Plan and now you have just mentioned $300 million or more.

Mr. Maxwell: I am happy to clarify. There are five programs. The total expenditure of the five programs over five years was $370 million. The funds from those programs went directly to projects to help deal with those types of problems. I mentioned the $176 million because that is the cost of one the five programs. That particular program is the largest of the five and funded projects such as on-farm storage of manure and fences that have now become legendary because of my example.

Senator Neufeld: My second question concerns the managing of the Clean Air and Climate Change Trust Fund at $1.5 billion. Those funds are transferred to the provinces. In my province, British Columbia, we are appreciative of those dollars and spend them wisely.

I read much the same here as to reporting whether that has been making any headway or not. It is similar to the farm practices issue.

There is a reduction. I know there are programs that will show there will be a reduction in that specific program, let us say, if it is replacing inefficient furnaces with efficient furnaces. Common sense and scientific knowledge tells us that those programs are reducing emissions. However, overall as a population, we are putting more pollution into the air all the time. I am not talking about pollution but Gigs. It becomes very hard to measure. Is this a shared responsibility between provincial governments? Are the provinces not reporting the proper information to the federal departments so that they can bring out the good stories?

I do not like to see these kinds of statements. I will be frank with you. I think there are some good things that are happening across the country. Instead of sitting back and letting them report and then saying that you will find out what is wrong with the report, it might be better to ask them some specific things that you need to develop a report. I know that the programs that receive a portion of the $1.5 billion in British Columbia are doing good things.

I am interested in your response to the transit issue. You could not find how that $300 million reduced greenhouse gases. If you measure just the transit portion, you would find that, yes, it did reduce greenhouse gases because, if you take one hundred cars off the road, common sense tells you it reduces the greenhouse gases.

In the whole scope of things, it may not have because something else popped up that is putting more Gigs into the air. From a common-sense basis, public transit, to the public, reduces greenhouse gases. I would like you to comment briefly on that.

I return to the farm issue as a matter of interest. Perhaps figuring out how you deal with cow manure, which is the greatest greenhouse gas producer on the farm, would be a good place to start. I am not sure we can do that. That is just a matter of interest. The farmers around the table can certainly relate to that problem.

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for the observations. First, with regards to the $1.5 billion that was transferred to the provinces for the transit fund, I agree with you that there are important, strong and effective climate change programs at the provincial level. British Columbia is one province but you can see similar programs across Canada; every single province has systems in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are serious programs and we were not calling into question whether or not they would yield results.

First, the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, presented a study generally on the nature of trust funds and transfers from Ottawa to the provinces. Generally, the pattern has been that conditions have not been attached to those trusts. The funds would go into the general revenue of the provinces and the provinces would then decide how they would use them. That is a perfectly legitimate and important mechanism.

The particular anomaly we found with this specific trust fund is that there was a target attached, in this case. The target attached by the federal government was 16 megatonnes per year as a result of the transfers. We said they could be higher or lower; the question for Ottawa is that Ottawa today does not have any means of knowing what will take place as a result of that money because there is no mechanism or obligation in place for the provinces to report back to Ottawa.

What you are alluding to is what we are saying. We are not saying that nothing has taken place from that but that, under the present situation, Ottawa would not know whether they reached that target of the 16 megatonnes per year or 80 megatonnes over the duration of the transfer.

More generally, in terms of the criteria, we work in proposing an audit with the department. The team will go back and forth for months in order to determine in an agreement through an entity what the audit plan will look like. The team will determine the scope of the audit and the questions, criteria and objectives.

If you or anyone in the committee has any suggestions on other criteria, please let us know. We are always trying to be constructive and critically helpful as opposed to finding a problem and bringing it to your attention. This is a deeply-held professional position of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Senator Neufeld: It has always interested me that when Ottawa transfers money to the provinces and they want to see exactly where each $5 was spent. My colleague is nodding and can relate to this quite well.

The suggestion, of course, is not one that you can have anything to do with. However, it may be of greater value to leave tax points in the provinces instead of Ottawa gathering the tax dollars, bringing them to Ottawa and then saying: "By the way, we will give you some back so you can do some of these things." That might occur if there were some tax points left in the provinces.

I think we have a relatively good measurement system in British Columbia. I would not say it is perfect but I do not think there is a perfect system out there, regardless of where you go. I think the provinces can do a better job and spend those dollars on hitting the ground so that things actually happen instead of trying to figure out how you justify to some department how this dollar is spent at a higher level of government. I am sure municipal governments feel much the same in relation to provinces. That is just a point of interest from me.

Mr. Vaughan: On the transit pass, I underscore that what we said was not that there were not any results. In this case, they actually were able to predict what the results will be as the result of this $635-million tax credit, and it was 35,000 tonnes. In this case, it is not that they did not know, but we said you probably do know although we were not clear on how they could calculate this. We said that the result of 35,000 tonnes was disappointing or negligible in relation to the whole thing.

We said that the broader goal of this is laudable and that encouraging Canadians to change their environmental behaviour by doing things like taking public transits should be strongly encouraged. People who have been working on environmental issues for 20 years have tried to find incentives and price incentives to give people means of doing alternatives that will reduce their carbon and other foot prints. I have said that I would like to see more of these, not less. In this particular case, the results were disappointing, but as a goal and objective, it is important.

On agriculture, methane gas emissions from cattle are included in the inventories on total contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator Mitchell: It is great to have you here this morning. You have given us some great information.

I am interested in cap-and-trade, and much of what you have been discussing relates to that. The government does have a policy, and I use that term lightly. They announced that their preference for greenhouse gas emission policy was cap-and-trade one or two years ago, but I have this deep conviction that they have done zero to prepare to begin to put that in.

The intensity of the need for this is enhanced infinitely now because Obama is doing it, and I mean the need from an economic point of view, because we will lose the initiative. When our companies need to buy credits, they will be buying them in the U.S. because we are not prepared to have a market. A lot of money and investment will be exported.

I am convinced that there has been no progress. I had two meetings with two major final emitters from Alberta. Neither has been approached in a substantive or specific way to begin to assess what caps would be reasonable in their case and to talk about how they could actually trade credits, for example.

You spoke about measurement. If you cannot measure, you cannot manage, period. Many of the people here are very concerned about government measuring programs. It will not happen unless you have specific measurements to do that.

Are you aware of any concrete steps or any progress that has been made to developing the cap-and-trade system in this country?

Mr. Vaughan: You are correct that the government did announce, and they reaffirmed that in their June 2008 national climate change plan, that an emissions trading system would be part of the options that they will be looking at. They also had in their proposed air regulations plan. To the extent that we looked at what the government's climate change plan is to date, we have not looked at or actually seen any details of that plan.

Senator Mitchell: You are not aware, therefore, that they have had discussions with securities commissions across the country? The TSX, for example, presented to the Environment Committee in 2007 and said they are ready to go. They would like to do it. We have lots of precedents for setting up stocks and credits, and credits are much less complicated than stocks. Had they approached any of these organizations whatsoever?

Mr. Vaughan: Senator, the minister or the department would likely give you a more timely response to that question. The Montreal Climate Exchange has been ready to go since 2006. The Winnipeg exchange and others are in the queue and ready to go on this as well. There is a lot of interest in this, obviously, and on what may happen from such a system.

Senator Mitchell: I do not want to put words in your mouth, but I think you are saying that there is a fundamental failure on the part of this government to act in any significant way beyond 35,000 tonnes for tax credits to people who would have taken the bus anyway.

I believe that their profound inclination not to act relates to their ideology that underlines a predisposition not to have government do much of anything at all. I think it is also underlined by this incorrect, erroneous assumption that, somehow, environmental policy and activity damages economies. It is absolutely not true. The next industrial revolution in this country, if we ever get to do it in the world, will be green. We did not wreck the economy when we restructured it to win the Second World War. We will not wreck the economy if we ever restructure it to win the war against greenhouse gases.

Has the government assessed the potential in this country to develop businesses that will take advantage of greenhouse gas reductions and to help businesses develop that capability and to help businesses understand and develop a capability to produce credits and offsets?

For farmers in Alberta, it is $6 a tonne. They are doing it. Bless Alberta's heart and soul for doing that. At $6 a tonne, we could have achieved Kyoto, the $250 million reductions a year for $1.5 billion a year. If you go to the European markets, credits are selling for $15 a tonne. That is $3.7 billion a year, and without anything, without you and I taking the bus, which we should and reduce the smaller cars, we could have achieved Kyoto at $3.7 billion. They cut $13 billion from the GST.

My point is this: Are they working with anyone in this country to help them to structure, to provide leadership catalyst to develop credits and to develop caps to help these companies take advantage of the economic opportunities?

Mr. Vaughan: I mentioned in my opening statement that we will be presenting to Parliament in May 2009 our first report on our legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

The government has announced 19 different measures within its plan. I cannot tell you what the findings are because the team is still working on them, but one of them would be working with the agricultural sector and looking at options for biofuels and increasing the production and availability of ethanol. We have also looked at how the government, through different approaches, is dealing with other industries such as the electricity sector, for example, and with other sectors as well. We would have that report, which is the first report, available to the Parliament in May.

Senator Mitchell: In the process of doing that, could you assess whether the government is working with a company called Highmark Renewable in eastern Alberta. That company has an operable plant where they take manure and use the gas to create electricity. The electricity fuels the process of creating ethanol, which takes excess or waste wheat that the cattle do not eat and people never do to ferment the ethanol. It is a closed system, which reduces greenhouse gases. They need money to develop more of these plants. There is a technology, Senator Neufeld, to do it. What is the government doing to work with companies like that?

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for that information. We will look at that company.

The Chair: Are you finished yet?

Senator Mitchell: I am never done.

The Chair: It is the questions I look for, not the preambles.

Senator Brown: I guess I was challenged earlier to defend agriculture. If you go back to the "dirty thirties," I think you will find the improvements in farming have far outstripped any improvements in industry or anything else in terms of environmental protection.

Farmers went from letting their soil blow away to minimum till and then no till now, for the most part. As far as irrigation, we went from pivots that sprayed water and lost 35 per cent of it before it hit the ground to sprinkle systems that are every few feet off the ground and they do not spray but rather make water droplets.

I think agriculture is has probably been one of the best sectors in terms of environmental improvements.

I, too, must agree with Senator Milne that I have never heard of the government paying for a fence.

The Chair: You are all singing "Do not fence me in!"

Senator Brown: If a farmer needs a fence, he builds it himself. They do not like to see creek beds destroyed so they certainly use a lot of fences.

My question is about your report. The second-last paragraph on page 4 says that you will bring a collective report that will be ready in November 2010 describing different approaches to managing and auditing climate change.

I believe you told us that emissions in Canada are 0.005 per cent of the world's production. I heard figures that are both higher and lower as far as Canada's total emissions but I would like to ask if you would consider taking the words "managing climate change" out. I do not think Canada, by itself, will manage climate change. We can certainly reduce Canada's emissions and reduce our impact on the climate but it is misleading to suggest, either to this government or to any other government, that we will be able to manage climate change when we are such an incredibly small contributor to the world's problems.

This came out a week ago in reference to China and the United States: United States coal produces 1.9 billion tonnes of CO2 a year; China produces 4.34 billion tonnes. There is a reference to the oil sands. We produce 3.3 million tonnes. We are so far below the emissions of other countries that we should not be suggesting that we will, somehow, change the climate.

Mr. Vaughan: Thank you for that question.

First, if I gave the wrong impression, I apologize about the 0.05 per cent confusion. The $635 million for the transit pass represented 0.05 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, not Canada's contribution to the global emissions. I can find out more and we would be glad to send it to the committee.

You are right: There are different figures on Canada's total contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions. We can send that off to you.

On the third point, I think you are right. We can go back and change that wording. The purpose, in the international endeavour with the 14 countries, we are trying to get at how different countries are managing their programs in addressing different elements of climate change as opposed to managing climate change itself. I thank you for that.

Senator Brown: I would like to ask you to get us a figure as soon as possible on what you consider to be the total emissions in tonnes. The figures that are coming out every day are changing but the United States is supposed to be responsible for 6.3 billion tonnes a year. I think our emissions are small compared to that figure.

We have to follow what the Americans are doing. For instance, with cars, we would not be able to market another car unless it can meet the established regulations in the United States. We have to be careful with what we do in our own regulations.

Everyone thinks the manufacturers of petroleum products are the problem and they are not. It is the consumption of the product. If we can stop the consumption or cut it in half, we can do more for climate change than anything else.

As far as automobiles go, and you mentioned this yourself, transportation such as light rail or buses will have a better impact than cars. We just take cars off the road and use multiple-use transit.

Senator Banks: A point of order for the record, Mr. Chair. Mr. Vaughan, my recollection is that earlier when you were talking about the percentage having to do with the $635 million transit, I think I heard you say earlier 0.0005 per cent. Just a moment ago you said 0.05 per cent.

Mr. Vaughan: Did I miss a zero?

Senator Banks: How many zeroes follow the decimal point?

Mr. Vaughan: There are three zeroes.

Senator Banks: There are three zeroes and then five.

Mr. Vaughan: Yes. We will send the information to the committee.

The Chair: Please send it through the clerk of the committee.

Mr. Vaughan: Yes.

Senator Spivak: At this point, I think that China has higher emissions than the United States. I think you said 4.3 billion for China versus 9 billion in the U.S.? I do not think that is accurate.

Senator Brown: No, I said, just in coal, the United States produces 1.9 billion tonnes and China produces 4.34 billion tonnes.

Senator Spivak: Sorry; I thought it was the other way around.

The Chair: Thank you both. Senator Milne, you want to clarify that point?

Senator Milne: This is a completely different question.

When you were doing your survey and your assessment, did you look at the practicality of the location of some Environment Canada offices? I am looking here at a picture of the Queen's Square Building in Dartmouth where the Canada Hurricane Centre is set up.

This is a tall glass building right on the waterfront in Dartmouth. If I am predicting a hurricane, I do not want to be sitting behind a sheet of glass in a tall glass building right on the Dartmouth waterfront, watching it approach me on radar. Have you looked at any of that sort of assessment of the expenditures?

Mr. Vaughan: That centre in Nova Scotia coordinates closely with the early warning systems run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States. Obviously, most of the hurricanes form in the mid-Atlantic and move up the U.S. coastlines.

Senator Milne: Then they hit Canada. This was set up because of the extreme damage that Hurricane Juan did to Point Pleasant Park. Still, I would not want to be sitting behind a sheet of glass looking at it approach.

The Chair: Is that your question, Senator Milne?

Senator Milne: Yes, I am asking if they have looked at this kind of expenditure.

Mr. McKenzie: No, we did not look at the issue of the location of the storm prediction centres. Certainly, that is an important issue with respect to safety and security as much as anything, as well as business continuity in terms of the services that the department provides. No, we did not look at that aspect.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Vaughan, we thank you and your colleagues very much for coming. Based on what I have heard, I think this will only be the first of several visits. I am intrigued by this report that you will be tabling in Parliament in May which is near and dear to all our hearts.

In the meantime, I assume that you will be diligently providing the requested information to our committee.

Mr. Vaughan: Yes, we will.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)