OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 5 p.m. to study the current state and future of Canada’s energy sector (including alternative energy).
Senator W. David Angus (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Colleagues, we are privileged this evening to have with us the Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P., Minister of the Environment.
Before getting further into the proceedings, I would like to report
— and I believe the minister has been so advised — that we have a Senate photographer here this evening who wishes to take some pictures of our meeting, the proceedings in action, so that we can update our special dedicated website.
I would like to have a motion, perhaps from you, Senator Wallace, that the coverage by electronic media of the committee's public proceedings, with the least possible disruption, be permitted.
Senator Wallace: I so move.
The Chair: All in favour? Carried unanimously.
Today we are continuing our ongoing study of Canada's energy and environment sectors. We believe that our energy and its sources, production, use and abuse in this country are inextricably intertwined with environmental factors and considerations. It was in this spirit, as we proceed with our study to hopefully develop a strategic framework for a national clean energy focus and policy, that we had the Minister of Natural Resources last week and the Minister of the Environment this week.
I am Senator David Angus, from Montreal, Quebec. I am the chair of this committee and have been since we began this study some two and a half years ago.
Senator Grant Mitchell is from Alberta. He is the deputy chair. Sam Banks and Marc LeBlanc are here from the Library of Parliamentary. Also here are Senator Burt Brown from Alberta, who is the only elected senator; Senator John Wallace from New Brunswick; Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia; Senator Richard Neufeld from British Columbia; Senator Fred Dickson of Nova Scotia; our clerk, Lynn Gordon; Senator Nick Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories; and Senator Rob Peterson from Saskatchewan.
Minister, you represent Thornhill, Ontario. You were first elected, I believe, in October 2008, and elected again in May of this year. You were appointed Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas). You became Minister of the Environment in January of 2011.
We are very delighted that you have made time for our committee to get to know you better and to help us understand your government's policies on the environment. To that end, you dined with our committee last spring, and we are hoping we can have another session, perhaps jointly with Minister Oliver, to interact on these critical issues we believe are really the topic of the day in Canada and perhaps globally
— energy and the environment.
This study has been going on for two and a half years. We are now trying to bring it into sharper focus, with a view to terminating sometime in the spring and having our final report issued on or around June 15, 2011.
We have been going across the country. We had to stop our tour for the election, but we have been to Quebec and Atlantic Canada. We intend to go to Manitoba and Saskatchewan and perhaps some of the northern areas, as well as to Alberta and British Columbia.
It is in that context that we are so pleased you could come tonight. You have with you Paul Boothe, Deputy Minister; Andrea Lyon, Associate Deputy Minister; Michael Keenan, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch; Coleen Volk, Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch; and Karen Dodds, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch. With us as well are Alan Latourelle, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada; and Elaine Feldman, President, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Minister, we have received your opening statement in both official languages, I believe. Thank you very much.
I know there are so many topics. Every day there is a new headline that concerns you, and I am sure it is hard enough for you to keep up with the evolving issues and keep them straight between you and Minister Oliver in whose bailiwicks they fall. My colleagues are loaded for bear tonight, I can assure you. We have apparent holes in the ozone layer and lots to talk about, so you can get on with your opening statement.
We are on the CPAC network, the World Wide Web, our website dedicated to the study we are doing, Facebook and Twitter. We are trying to be modern and in the social media. This is about a dialogue with the people of Canada so that they will learn more about the energy and environmental sectors and to dispel some myths. For example, we have determined there are at least 10 "truths"
— that are not really truths — out there. One of the great things we think this study will achieve is to dispel some of these time-worn myths, and I know you are keen to help us do that. I am sure you find in your daily comings and goings that people have been misinformed about these complex subjects.
The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P., Minister of the Environment: Thank you very much, Senator Angus. It is a pleasure and an honour to be here. We will talk later to your final point about how quickly I have learned scar tissue can accumulate.
I am delighted by any opportunity to talk about Environment Canada, Parks Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the many things that we are doing on any number of important fronts.
It is a particular honour to be here tonight before members of the Senate, to have the chance to give you an update on our progress in the department. I am already well acquainted with several of you from my previous life. Since we last met in March under somewhat more social circumstances, there have been some significant political and economic changes in Canada.
Politically, of course, there is a strong, secure, stable Conservative majority government, and we are currently in the midst of an unprecedented sequence of provincial elections.
On the economic front, global pressures, most recently the European and the United States debt crises, have added a new measure of volatility and uncertainty to our domestic economy.
I am truly thankful that we have men like the Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at the helm to help guide the country through difficult economic times.
What has not changed, however, is the government's commitment to proactively address a wide range of environmental issues both at home and abroad.
It is timely that we meet today. As you know, the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development tabled his report today. We note his findings, and I will certainly stand behind our government's continued strong action on environmental issues that matter most to Canadians.
We continue to make progress on our sector-by-sector approach.
To address a few of the issues, the commissioner reached in his findings, for example, the cumulative environmental effects of oil sands projects. He did so, and this cannot be repeated too often, before our government announced the next step in the development of a world-class monitoring plan. Canada's rich resources are a driver of economic growth, and we must ensure we develop them in an environmentally sustainable way for the benefit of generations to come.
Particular to this approach, we are pleased to note the commissioner's recognition of the announcement of the oil sands monitoring plan. Our government continues to take action on environmental issues that matter most to Canadians to ensure clean air and water.
We are delivering on our commitments under the Copenhagen Accord and Cancun agreements and are on track to meet our Copenhagen targets.
Internationally, we have been actively participating in a number of forums to address important issues to Canadians whether it is conserving biodiversity, protecting the arctic environment, reducing mercury emissions, or looking after endangered species.
Of key importance have been the negotiations ahead of the upcoming annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is in South Africa this year.
Frankly, based on the tenor of the talks to date, our expectations of the outcome at the 17th Conference of the Parties, COP 17, are relatively limited. It would appear that many countries that adopted the Cancun agreements last December are now having a case of buyer’s remorse. They seem unwilling to commit to a process by which their mitigation actions will be subject to international review.
For our part, Canada remains committed to our Copenhagen Accord target, which is now inscribed in the Cancun agreements. To reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent over 2005 base levels by 2020, we remain committed to the necessity of establishing a new multilateral regime that will include all major emitters.
As it always does, getting consensus on a final text from 192 parties is generally a wild ride down to the wire, but we believe it can and must eventually be done.
We continue to work through other international events to address climate change as well. Among them is the Major Economies Forum, which met in Washington and which I attended, and the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, which I hosted in June in Montreal. Both of these meetings advanced our efforts to work with our international partners to address climate change and to improve our environment.
In the case of climate change, our goal remains to have a new international regime that includes all major emitters and that will take concrete actions to limit global warming.
To that end, I recently attended a meeting in Mexico to discuss short-lived climate forcers. It is critical that we address these climate forcers if we wish to meet the two-degree target set out in the Cancun agreement.
As part of our commitment to addressing climate change and as part of promoting a better environment for all Canadians, we have done considerable work.
Using a sector-by-sector approach that began with the transportation industry and vehicle emissions, we are now about 25 per cent of our way to hitting our emission target reductions. That includes draft regulations tabled this past summer to phase out the use of dirty coal to generate electricity in Canada. Next, we will address ways to get a number of heavy industries to reduce their emissions.
Senators, there are a couple of things worth noting about this process. First, Environment Canada is determined to get these environmental regulations right. That means we are taking the time to consult extensively with a wide range of stakeholders, including provinces, territories, businesses and communities. It takes time, trust and willingness to listen and not simply go through the motions.
Second, we want to be as transparent and deliberate as possible as we proceed, especially at time of such economic uncertainty and market volatility. We understand that businesses do not need any further surprises. We understand that there is an economic environment that is every bit as sensitive as our natural environment. If we want to encourage investment and job creation we have to be clear and consistent about regulations and standards.
That is also why — where it makes sense — we are aggressively pursuing a regulatory agenda that aligns with our United States partners. We understand that
— with such an integrated North American economy —
we need to align our efforts to be able to effectively protect our shared environment, as well as our economy.
I have talked a fair amount about our greenhouse gas, GHG, reduction strategy, and while it is certainly a crucial piece, it is only one element in a much broader plan.
Clean water and clean air are top societal, as well as environmental, policies and priorities.
We have established a framework for improving water air and biodiversity monitoring in the area around Alberta's oil sands development. To do that, we consulted with the world's leading scientists in the related fields. That peer review process was invaluable, and it is ongoing, as is our work with the province of Alberta, with local communities and with the oil sands companies.
We have also pushed further forward with the Action Plan for Clean Water. In early September, I announced funding for the seventh round of the cleanup of Lake Simcoe in Ontario. Over the past four years, Environment Canada has spent over $17 million to clean up Lake Winnipeg and has invested in 169 partnered projects in the Great Lakes remediation initiative. The fourth phase of the St. Lawrence Plan has been completed, and we will be ready to announce the fifth Canada-Quebec agreement on the St. Lawrence in the near future. By the end of this year, after extensive consultation with provinces and municipalities, we plan to table draft regulations that will establish the first national waste water standards for Canada.
We are working intensively with provinces and territories, and with industry and environmental groups, to develop a new and better system for air-quality management right across the country. We have also sharpened the tools we use to regulate and to enforce the rules.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency remains actively involved in supporting the Canadian economy and the sustainability of the environment through the delivery of timely, high-quality environmental assessments.
In support of this work, in June we announced regulations that streamline environmental assessments conducted by the Agency.
Our enhanced Chemicals Management Plan takes a proactive approach to developing a world-class stewardship of chemical substances, assessing the risks attached to the most hazardous, and protecting against the damage they do. One of the NGOs most critical of our government and of my department has gone so far as to categorize our Chemicals Management Plan as an important and valuable program, with an A+ grade for timeliness and effective risk management of chemicals currently in use by Canadian industry.
Then, senators, there is one of Canada's crown jewels, Parks Canada, which this year is celebrating its 100th
anniversary. This year, Parks Canada accepted a prestigious recognition by World Wildlife Fund-International, the Gift to the Earth award. This award, recognizing our leadership in protecting, restoring and connecting our lands, our waters, our nature and our people, belongs to all Canadians, the entire Parks Canada team and all its partners. In accepting the Gift to the Earth award, Parks Canada has rededicated itself to the task of protecting the earth and inspiring more people to do the same.
The splendour of our national parks — and I do not use the word "splendour" lightly
— is an integral part of the Canadian identity. Each one is entirely unique. Each one reflects conservation of our remarkable natural heritage and each one is a source of pride.
In this time of economic uncertainty, it has never been more important to find hope and inspiration for the future, and it is in our national parks where Parks Canada offers Canada the best kinds of hope and inspiration. Each day in Canada's protected heritage areas, we are inspiring a Canada in which its people are connected to the land, to its stories and to one another, and are more likely than ever before to be able to give Canada a strong and healthy future.
Over the past five years, our government has accelerated the pace at which we protect Canada's natural diversity, growing Parks Canada's protected natural areas by close to 50 per cent. This growth has been done through significant, tangible actions that will add 130,000 square kilometres to Canada's protected areas.
When we look at our conservation accomplishments, we can look first to Canada's North, where we have expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve to six times its original size and made commitments to protect the world's Arctic Serengeti of Lancaster Sound.
We can also look to the west of Canada, where we are once again demonstrating world leadership through the establishment of Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. We have extended the area protected from the top of the alpine mountains to the bottom of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelf.
We can look to the Prairies, where in Grasslands National Park, black-footed ferrets and bison once again are free in a land that is becoming restored. We can look to the Great Lakes, where we are once again leading the world in the protection of water ecosystems. A short five years ago, we created the world's largest freshwater protected area in Lake Superior.
There is now greater recognition by many countries that protected areas will be a key tool for climate change adaptation. By establishing more parks and restoring the health of existing parks, we will be strengthening the resilience of Canada's environment by protecting water sources and providing safe havens for wildlife in the future.
This government has expanded existing parks and created new ones to the point that Canada now protects close to 100 million hectares, about 10 per cent of our entire land mass. That is a 30 per cent increase in the past four years alone.
To ensure that the spirit of conservation thrives in future and increasingly urban generations, we launched a program this year that teaches a new generation of Canadians how to camp. We preserved our national heritage through the restoration of iconic lighthouses, like Fisgard on Vancouver Island and Point Clark in Ontario. Our park in Jasper has become the world's largest dark-sky preserve, to the delight of astronomers who visit from around the world.
I could tell you at length about our new plan to protect fragile species like the woodland caribou, or our aggressive new enforcement measures to punish those who break our rules. However, I do not want to run the risk of overstaying my welcome.
I trust I have left you with a clear sense of our direction and our actions, as well as an understanding of our national and international strategy to ensure that Canada conserves and protects its precious environmental heritage for future generations of Canadians. It is a stewardship, a responsibility, which comes as close to a sacred trust as you will ever find. It is a body of work that is constantly evolving, both domestically and internationally. There is no question that it is challenging, and there is no question that we will meet every challenge.
I thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to answering your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, minister. I congratulate you on a clear, detailed and interesting presentation for everyone here.
Normally, I would ask the deputy chair to lead off with the first question, but he is not at all interested in climate change or anything like that. I thought I would exercise my chair's prerogative and ask you a quick preliminary question so that the deputy chair can plan his attack.
I wrote to you after our pleasant dinner meeting in the spring. In a letter of thanks to you I added that, as a matter of interest, the Commissioner of the Environment, Mr. Scott Vaughan, appeared before our committee that morning, March 10. I said that as I had predicted to you the previous evening, he was most critical of our government, especially respecting climate change policy and strategy. Among other things, he stated: "The lack of a federal strategy and action plan has hindered departments' efforts at coordinating actions to address the effects of climate change."
Then lo and behold, this morning, the Commissioner of the Environment surfaced once again and tabled his most recent report, the October 2011 report, in the House of Commons. I will read to you the paragraph and then I will ask you to comment on those quotes. In the press release that the commissioner issued with his report, he stated as follows:
The federal government lacks reliable information to inform Canadians about environmental change and to take actions needed to safeguard environmental quality, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his report tabled today in the House of Commons.
He goes on to say it has been a recurring criticism of his since he began in this portfolio.
Could you comment? His predecessor, Ms. Gélinas, used to come before us and she did not criticize. She said we have all the tools in the government. Just the opposite of this, she criticized the then government of perhaps not using them, but I always felt she left with a positive spin and we had a good feeling. Here I have a sense of negativity. What do you think about that?
Mr. Kent: Thank you for this opportunity, and I will backhand some of my comments.
I met with the commissioner yesterday, and we had a very good chat. He conceded, as he did this morning at your counterpart committee in the house, that, in fact, his report is significantly out of date. The paragraphs that you quoted were formed on the basis of field reporting over a year ago in the fall of 2010.
I would prefer that all honourable senators, the opposition members of the house, and particularly the media, look a little further to find the positive comments in today's report, a post-script, if you will, where he acknowledged, I think with considerable praise, the work, developments and accomplishments of recent months.
With regard to oil sands monitoring, the commissioner said:
In my view, the federal government has taken an important step forward by both acknowledging the deficiencies of the current system and setting out a detailed plan to fix them.
If fully implemented, these commitments hold the promise of establishing a credible, robust, and publicly accessible monitoring system for measuring environmental conditions and changes in environmental quality levels, as well as determining the sources of those changes.
With regard to our government's climate commitments and recognizing that we see Kyoto in the rear-view mirror, we abide by the reporting requirements of the Kyoto Protocol legislation. We disagreed, and the only area of significant disagreement in our conversation yesterday was where the commissioner lamented the lack of financial reporting in our reporting to the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, KPIA. Our position is that that reporting has already been done and is available through other government departments and agencies, and that to generate a redundant report with a rapidly fading protocol would not be a good expense of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars.
With regard to our commitment, and I have a feeling that the environment commissioner in the Auditor General's department will be as glad to see the behind of the Kyoto Protocol as our government will be, he acknowledged that the federal government has made new international and national commitments set out under the Copenhagen Accord, the 2010 federal sustainability strategy and the Cancun action plan.
All of these establish a commitment to achieving a 17 percent reduction, from the 2005 levels, in greenhouse gases by 2020.
I tried to persuade disinterested members of the opposition in Question Period today. I believe that in his report the environment commissioner has recognized that our government does have a plan, that we do have targets, and that he applauds the work we have done and continue to lay out in our sector-by-sector approach to reducing greenhouse gases.
The Chair: That is good to hear, minister.
Senator Mitchell, you have the floor.
Senator Mitchell: I think the chair asked all my questions. It was a good question.
I admire the dexterity with which the minister answered.
The Chair: The candour.
Senator Mitchell: The candour, yes. It was kind of a bait-and-switch answer because the point that the commissioner makes is that there is a lack of key management systems and tools needed to achieve, measure and report on greenhouse gas emission reductions generally, not just in the oil sands.
Your answer is, yes, he did say there was a pretty good plan in the last year for water monitoring, and there is, except there is one weakness in that. Alberta will tell you that you will not jointly appoint that. You are taking it out of the hands of Alberta; it is not a joint effort. That is one weakness.
The fact is that is that just applies to water, and it only applies to the oil sands. In a way, your answer says exactly the flip side of the problem I and many Albertans have. I am concerned about GHGs and climate change, everybody knows that, but I do not want Alberta to be picked on.
Your answer is saying we are monitoring Alberta, so everything is okay. You are only monitoring Alberta's oil sands for water, and you are not monitoring the rest of the country.
What sort of regime do you have in place today, a year after that report, 776 people fewer since that report, and $70 million less? How can you be doing more than he is saying you were doing and criticizing you for so far fewer resources? What do you have to say about it across the country, not just picking on Alberta in trying to justify your explanation of an inexplicable problem for you?
Mr. Kent: I will be glad to respond. There are so many flawed assumptions in that question, but I will start with the first one.
The Chair: I told you there were some myths out there that need to be dispelled.
Senator Mitchell: I would just like you to answer the whole question.
Mr. Kent: First of all, we cherish Alberta, as we do all provinces and territories, as partners in helping us to reach our 2020 emission reduction targets.
The monitoring program, which is more comprehensive than water and goes beyond the borders of Alberta, covers the monitoring of water, which I first announced in July. Additionally, we added air and biodiversity. We now have a comprehensive plan, a plan that covers wind sheds, which are as important as watersheds in many ways and which are of great interest. The monitoring is of great interest to those in the Northwest Territories, in British Columbia, in Saskatchewan and farther downwind on the wind sheds in Manitoba.
We are not picking on Alberta. We want to work with Alberta. We want to work with Alberta industry. We see, in many ways, that the monitoring of the Lower Athabasca will provide greater credibility for the defence of the wonderful product of a great national natural resource.
We want to see the oil sands prosper and develop responsibly, sustainably. We want to see and be able to prove the monitoring that has taken place so far, and we responded to a scientific panel over a year ago in creating a plan for a more comprehensive plan. We were told
— our government was told under one of my predecessors, Minister Prentice — that scientific monitoring was inadequate in Alberta.
We responded. We created a plan that has been hailed, not only in government but by academics across the country, many of them Albertans. It has been recognized, and although we have had the disruption of a federal election this year and of the leadership race in Alberta, my deputy, our scientists and officials continue to work with their counterparts in the Government of Alberta to roll this plan out.
We have received, from industry, acknowledgment that the benefits that will come from this will allow them to better present the social licence, not only with regard to great infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, but in Europe where, again today, we are hearing stories of trade blacklisting because of a perception of dirty oil.
We can and will defend ourselves against those allegations. One of the tools we will have to do that with is the results of our monitoring.
The Prime Minister, when he inscribed the Copenhagen agreement, made it clear that he expects all emitting sectors across the country
— and we started with transportation and moved to renewable fuels; I just brought out the regulations for coal-fired electricity generators and we will go around to other heavy emitters, and to new commercial and residential buildings
— to help to reach our 2020 emission reduction targets.
With respect, I think that you have mischaracterized somewhat our relationship with the Government of Alberta. I look forward to working with the new premier and her cabinet, which I understand will be announced next Wednesday, because we have a lot of work to do. Time is of the essence.
Senator Mitchell: I think you will find her very easy to work with; she is very liberal.
You have listed the sectors; that is great. You say you have a monitoring system all across the country. I know your intentions and I know you are committed to doing this; I really feel this. Perhaps some of your predecessors were as well, but I think you are within a structure of government that does not really want to let it happen.
Prove to us that you have numbers that say, against heavy vehicles, what the amount is that will be reduced toward your 17 per cent reduction. Tell me what the number is for biofuels and vehicular cars. Tell me what the number is for coal, and then tell me what the number will be for the oil sands
— when we will see that — and tell me how that all adds up to the 231 megatonnes you have to drop in nine years.
You said yourself that you are 25 per cent of the way there. You have 75 per cent of the way to go, and it sounds like you have listed at least 80 per cent of the sectors already.
Mr. Kent: We have eight years to go.
With respect again, the Commissioner of the Environment today in those out-of-date remarks assessing out-of-date information did not refer, for example, to my speech in January to the Economic Club of Toronto, where we presented
— with pie charts and megatonnage reduction results — outcomes from the transportation sector regulations in alignment with the United States.
Again, many of our outcomes, as we go sector by sector because of our integrated North American economy, are aligned with the U.S. Certainly with the auto industry, it makes no sense to go our separate ways. We have worked with the Americans on automobiles and light trucks. We are working on heavy trucks now. We will very shortly begin working on post-2016 cars and trucks.
We have tangible numbers. I invite you to visit the Environment Canada website. Certainly, in your discussion with my deputy and our officials later, they can walk you through the data that shows that our measures to date will reduce tangibly by 65 megatonnes about a quarter of the megatonnage we have to reduce to hit that target in 2020.
We recognize that with a recovering economy, with recovering prosperity and with greater development in the oil sands, there will be greater greenhouse gas emissions, which is a challenge. At the same time, we know that through regulations, through technology, through better practices, we can decouple significantly a comparable, equal increase in greenhouse gas emissions with greater output and production.
Those numbers are tangible; they are there. They have been widely ignored by those who, for whatever reason, do not want to read them or do not want to believe them. On the website, there are the equivalent numbers; four megatonnes reduced in the biofuel regulations is equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. These are measurable, scientifically defendable numbers.
We are roughly a quarter of the way there, and we have eight years to go. We are in early discussions with the oil industry on ways that they feel we may solve some of these problems and effect some of these reductions. In the coal-fired generating sector, for example, we have investments in Saskatchewan and Alberta
— I know Senator Oliver told you about them last week.
In Saskatchewan, we invested $240 million for a pilot program in carbon capture. It was so successful that during our federal election campaign, the Government of Saskatchewan
— SaskPower being a government-owned utility — invested $1 billion. When I was out in Estevan a few weeks ago to announce the Canada Gazette draft regulations' posting, that carbon capture facility was partially built. It should be completely built in its outer structure in the next few months.
There is progress. There is new technology almost by the week, and we believe that we will hit those targets.
Senator Mitchell: One quick question with the national round table. It also had some pretty startling facts and figures that suggested there are billions of dollars of costs impacting our economy, Canadians and government resources because climate change is under way and it is having an impact.
How does your economic modelling measure up to that economic modelling? Are you doing some that says they are wrong or right? Do you confirm that?
Second, how do you square the fact that in your cuts, the 776 people, at least some of that includes your group of people that researches and develops work on adaptation? What sort of confidence can we have that your government is committed to adaptation in some significant way that will not bankrupt the government revenues because you have not done anything about climate change?
Mr. Kent: Remind me to address your flawed assumption on the workforce adjustment in the department.
First, let me say that we recognize, and we have recognized since 2007, that addressing climate change is only partially a matter of mitigation. As you say, it has already happened. We have been committed for the past almost five years to spending significant amounts of money to help in adaptation in Arctic Canada, in mid-Canada and across the country.
In Budget 2007, we committed $85.9 million. In 2011, we committed another $58 million over two years. Our commitment internationally to Copenhagen is $1.2 billion over three years. That is largely targeted at assisting adaptation in the most affected developing countries, such as small island states and countries that have issues with droughts, floods and other extreme weather.
We recognize adaptation as a critically important part of any climate change policy. We have been there, we are there today and we will continue to be there going forward.
With regard to this 776 jobs that are constantly referred to, I know I should never answer in the words of the accuser, but 776 employees of Environment Canada are not cut, are not on the street and will not be on the street. Under the workforce adjustment directive, which is a public service mandate under the Treasury Board, whenever any positions at the department
— or any department, for that matter — are declared redundant or surplus, we have to notify all the people who may potentially be affected or might be associated with those specific redundant jobs.
There is a great difference between the 776 people who have been notified that they may be affected and the 300 positions that will be declared surplus, in the interests of proper management and resources and science. A much smaller number of people may actually leave the department in the end. That is because last year more than 500 permanent employees left the department through retirement or transfer to other public service jobs or departments. We expect more than 400 this year.
I do not make these decisions. The deputy minister, on the advice of our scientists and officials, decides on merit who is affected and how they are moved. He has the authority to commit to finding placement within the department for every person who loses a position.
Of the 300 people who lose a position, some will
find work because of attrition, others because of the efforts of —
Senator Mitchell: However, there will be 776 fewer people actually working in that department.
Mr. Kent: No, no.
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Mr. Kent: That is absolutely wrong; 776 people hold the similar equivalent rankings or ratings or qualifications for the 300 positions that are declared surplus. On the basis of merit, some of those individuals will be associated with those 300 positions. For those whose positions are gone, we are committed to finding them placement elsewhere in the department in appropriate jobs.
At the moment, no one is on the street; no one is likely to be on the street. This process is long and deliberate. It is the most generous workforce adjustment process. I spent most of my life in the private sector, with a few years at the CBC. This is the most accommodating workforce adjustment policy that I have ever come up against.
The Chair: This is a kinder and gentler society.
Senator Mitchell, I wanted to thank you for your excellent questions and you, minister, for your responses. As you know from your previous experiences, this is a non-partisan committee and we operate by consensus here. I thought that was a very excellent interaction. Senator Peterson is next.
Senator Peterson: Thank you, minister, for your presentation. I have much the same question, so I will sum it up by maybe having you confirm what I think you said.
In terms of increasing our abilities to monitor the impacts in the Arctic, will we have an increased presence there?
Mr. Kent: The short answer is yes. I was in Yellowknife in the spring, before the election. We announced a significant investment in improving and updating our technological ability, for example on the meteorological side, to recognize the fact that Northern Canadians deserve the same weather prediction, local weather warning, for extreme weather. Now, with the diminishing Arctic ice pack, we have international responsibilities to international navigation.
Therefore, yes, the answer is through technology, through personnel, we are endeavouring to supply the same wonderful weather service, for example, that Southern Canadians have long taken for granted. We, as a government, and not just in Environment Canada, are looking at the challenges with regard to Northern railroads and roads that are experiencing significant infrastructure challenges because of warming weather and thawing muskeg. We are looking across government, whether it is Aboriginal affairs or natural resources, at ways of both responsibly developing our natural resources in the North and at the same time doing it in an environmentally sustainable way.
Senator Peterson: Thank you.
Senator Sibbeston: Both of my questions relate to the economic benefits and environmental concerns around pipelines.
There are a lot of pipelines in the works. There is Keystone and the Gateway pipeline that carry bitumen from the markets to China. There is also the prospect of a gas pipeline from Mackenzie Valley down to the South. Many people have raised questions about the environmental impact and the economic benefits. The argument is made that these are new pipelines built with the most advanced technology and to the highest standards of the day. I suppose this would have been said about every pipeline that has been built.
We recently had a pipeline spill in the Northwest Territories just North of Fort Simpson, where I live, where there was a minor hole in the pipeline that caused a spill. It caused quite a bit of concern in the North because that pipeline has been good up until now. Over the summer there was a spill, which makes people realize that, yes this pipeline can affect the environment. There are many river crossings, and so forth.
How do you respond to those concerned about the environmental impact of both building the pipeline and potential spills from the pipeline once it is built? More importantly, what monitoring process do you have in place to ensure that the pipeline stays safe over the long term?
Mr. Kent: I hear your questions; I hear your concern. Some of the projects you mentioned have been assessed environmentally. Gateway, for one, has not yet. As you know, there is great uncertainty, given the economic climate and the investment climate, as to which pipelines may or may not be built. Our government does not pick favourites.
I do have some familiarity with the Mackenzie Valley. I travelled with Justice Berger up and down in the 1970s during his original hearings on the proposal of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, and I am disappointed that it did not come to fruition and construction when the price of natural gas was at a level that would have justified it then.
However, you are right; pipelines are by far — and I know that Minister Oliver, who testified a week ago, told you this
— the safest way to transport petrochemicals around this continent, absolutely the safest way. They are safer than truck, barge or tanker. However, the pipelines need to be responsibly operated and monitored. That is our job at Environment Canada, namely, to ensure there is monitoring. New pipelines do have technology that allows more immediate notification of spills, of accidents, and allow faster shutdown and far fewer litres of substance to be dumped into the environment.
We also have provisions and much stronger enforcement regulations this year that will ensure that accidents
— and most of the operators are responsible in their intent — will not simply be written off by the operator as a cost of doing business. We expect cleanup to be done fully and completely, and we have significant penalties now for those who do not follow the regulations.
Senator Sibbeston: Thank you.
The second question relates to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. I am glad you mentioned the Berger inquiry and your being in the North. You will notice that since the years that Berger was in the North and did his study, there have been major changes. Land claims have been settled with most of the Aboriginal people down the Mackenzie Valley, whereas in those days there was resistance or opposition by native people to big projects such as was proposed then. However, there is now support for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. In fact, Aboriginal people will own one third, 33 per cent, of a pipeline, possibly more in the future.
I am aware that representatives of the Aboriginal pipeline group were in Ottawa last week. I do not know if they met you, but I believe they met with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Many senators and MPs are hoping to get support for the pipeline. I take it all of the approvals have more or less been done. The National Energy Board, NEB, and the federal cabinet have approved it. Some fiscal arrangement with the federal government is now necessary so that the pipeline can proceed by 2014 or so.
Are you in a position, as Minister of the Environment, to make a statement with regard to supporting the pipeline? Do you have any influence with the Minister of Finance, Minister Flaherty? I take it that, in the end, he will be the minister who has a great deal of say in the fiscal arrangements if it is to be done.
Mr. Kent: To answer your question, as a member of Parliament, I certainly support the concept, the project. However, as the Minister of the Environment, I have no authority; it is not my file. The proponent, Imperial Oil, is carrying the ball and may well make interventions to the responsible ministers.
Financing of the project is an issue and, as you know, the challenge even for gas pipelines in Southern Canada is that the existing tariffs on natural gas, with gas as low as it is, actually discourage getting a lot of that valuable and clean fuel appropriately to market.
I am afraid it is not in my file to influence.
Senator Neufeld: Thank you for your in-depth opening remarks; I appreciated that. The part that worries me a bit is that Canada's emissions are 2 per cent of the global emissions. I am careful about what I read and what I actually believe. When you look at some of the countries that are moving forward at a huge pace and using China as an example, I know they have put in lots of non-emitting electricity but nothing compared to what they are building that is emitting huge amounts of GHGs.
I appreciate we are working closely with the U.S. on regulations. That is an absolute must because we are so inextricably tied with them economically. However, I still worry that we will penalize ourselves in the long run as to what we will gain. That is an answer I have never been able to get.
What do we actually gain if we let some countries continue to pollute absolutely almost unrestricted? All the countries are trying to get some kind of monitoring system, such as Russia and China. I have great faith in human nature but I still question what numbers they will actually come up with and how they are measured.
Do you think it is actually possible that at some point in time there will be something wherein people will be able to believe the public that other countries are actually reducing greenhouse gases? What do we do in the meantime? It is great to do all the things we are doing and I appreciate that. However, I think about what we are putting on our kids in the future because we will be using fossil fuels for a long time but just in different ways. We will be putting a yolk around our young people.
I know Senator Mitchell would say you will flood out Vancouver and all these kinds of things. That is at the other end of the scale.
I really worry that we will hamstring ourselves in the long run and for what in the end? What do we gain at the end of the game, when the football score is 0-0? What do we actually gain? Do you have some comment?
Mr. Kent: There is an awful lot in your question, but I would start by answering that Canada is not an island environmentally. In terms of climate change you are quite right; Canada contributes barely 2 per cent of the global emissions every year. The oil sands contribute about six and a half per cent of that number. However, internationally Canada is still seen as a moral leader. Canada did play a role at Cancun last year to pull together some of the loose ends
— and there were a lot of them — from the Copenhagen summit.
Every time I go to Mexico and every time I see the Mexican ambassador here in town he cannot say enough positive things about how Canada worked to help make the Cancun summit a success. We have drawn like-minded countries to our side. At a meeting a couple of weeks ago, at the major economies forum in Washington, there was recognition even by those die-hard countries that are clinging to Kyoto, which only represented 30 per cent of the world's emitters, that a new regime is required to bring in India, China, the United States and some of the other large emitting countries so we can meaningfully move forward.
You are quite right about China counterbalancing its great hydroelectric advances with putting scores of new dirty coal generating stations into operation, but at the moment they are the biggest investor in clean energy projects in a variety of ways. There are some contradictions in what they are doing, but I think the longer we can engage and encourage these major emitters to get into the game, the better the future will be in this country for our children and grandchildren.
I say this today: We have a significant problem. Our scientists have detected mercury in mother's milk in the Arctic, which got into the food chain by being air transported from China, from these hundreds of coal-fired generating stations, and it is in our interest to get them to engage, not just for climate change but for the fundamental health of Canadians.
Senator Neufeld: I know we could go on for a long time about that, but I want to put on the record that those kinds of things bother me.
Mr. Kent: I hear you.
Senator Neufeld: Do you believe then that by 2020, or sometime sooner than 2020
— which is when we say we will meet our targets, so let us say halfway there — China, the United States, India and all of those countries that are heavy emitters will be in a system that we can actually comfortably say, "Yes, that is exactly what is happening?" Do you feel comfortable with that?
Mr. Kent: That is what we are working to achieve. There are those who would deny our intent, our commitment and our capability. I met some journalists at the door before our first interrupted session.
Senator Neufeld: Do not say anything about journalists.
Mr. Kent: In my day, of course, journalism was a much different craft. Far less opinion was offered by so-called straight journalists.
One of those journalists said, "Look me in the eye and tell me you're going to meet your targets," and I said, "That is our intent." The Prime Minister's signature on the Copenhagen Accord commits this country to do that. We will endeavour to work with the Americans at the methane, in Cancun, at Copenhagen
— and I am looking forward to seeing Todd Stern, the climate change ambassador, in Durban
— and we will continue to work to change.
At the same time, we are on parallel tracks. It is not a competition, but Canada, the United States and Mexico, trilaterally, with other countries when we met in Mexico, agreed that we really could make a big difference faster and sooner by attacking and controlling limiting, short-lived climate forces like methane, like black carbon, like hydro-fluorocarbons. Those go up and do force climate. If we can contain landfill, if we can contain stationary diesel generators in the Arctic, the emissions, the black carbon, if we can contain hydro-fluorocarbons, which replaced chlorofluorocarbons that are causing the problems with the Arctic ozone hole now, which will unfortunately be up there for many years impacting on the ozone, we can work in a variety of ways and I do believe we can engage those.
India is interested. India realizes that if they want to be a world leader, the world's largest democracy has a significant role to play.
Senator Neufeld: Another issue is environmental assessments. I know when I was with the Province of British Columbia, the industry was always talking about how slow the province was with environmental assessments, in the duplication and those kinds of things. I sincerely believe that the provinces and the federal government have made great headway in the last while on environmental assessments. However, I think there is still a long way to go. I am not saying we should reduce our environmental assessments in any way, our stringent rules and those kinds of things. However, the industry still tells me that we need to be careful, especially in the natural gas industry that could replace an awful lot of oil, not immediately but over time. There is a huge abundance of it in the world, specifically in North America; and I will talk about British Columbia. If we are not careful, the U.S. will outpace us on approving liquefied natural gas export facilities, and other countries, like Australia, will beat us to the punch because they want to work more quickly.
We need to keep some things in mind, but it does not mean that we side-step issues. Federally and provincially we need to work closely together to ensure that we get those ports and pipelines. Natural gas pipelines are very different from oil pipelines. If you get a rupture in natural gas pipeline, other than fire, the gas will rise because it is lighter than air.
I want to know what headway we have made federally with the provinces on getting some of those assessments done more quickly so we can get the economic activity and jobs that we all need.
Mr. Kent: You are right, senator. There have been roadblocks, unnecessary delays, redundancy and multiple assessments for projects that really required only one.
There have been big improvements recently in terms of the major project management office. We are working with the Province of Alberta on major assessments and creating joint review panels. We have come to a similar meeting of the minds with the Government of British Columbia, where we will move forward.
As well as improving the practice and eliminating redundancy, the review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is about to begin very soon. Certainly without prejudging and anticipating, any number of obvious improvements can be made simply through the experiences that we have had in recent years to speed up the process and avoid some of these delays. To be honest, there have been occasions in the past when the provinces did not always engage as quickly or as effectively as they might have; but we are working on that. By reviewing and making some changes to the act, we will address those issues that you have raised.
Senator Neufeld: I would like to talk to you further on that some time.
Senator Wallace: Minister, a topic of great interest to us in New Brunswick and across Atlantic Canada is shale gas deposits. I understand that the potential economic opportunities arising from that can be considerable. My colleagues from British Columbia tell me about the benefits that British Columbia has realized from the extraction of its shale gas deposits.
Perhaps there are legitimate concerns that have to be addressed in terms of environmental issue, in particular involving the fracking process during both the exploration for and the extraction of shale gas. What comments do you have to add to that? What, if anything, is your department doing in relation to this shale gas issue?
Mr. Kent: You are right: The questions around fracking loom large in the minds of many Canadians and in the minds of many provincial governments. Shale gas is mainly a provincial responsibility except on federal lands. At the same time, I agree that we need to supplement and broaden our knowledge of hydraulic fracturing and the development of shale gas in the different geologies of the continent. Hydraulic fracturing is an old technology that in recent years has been used to great effect in horizontal drilling in the shale gas industry.
There have been a variety of scientific and non-scientific observations on the risks and benefits. My colleague, Minister Oliver, gave the assessment of Natural Resources Canada, which is that shale gas is a game changer and will have a significant impact on the resource industry, on the North American economy, and on the use of cleaner fuels in electricity generation and in any number of other industrial applications.
With regard to how Environment Canada will increase its knowledge base in the shale gas sector, I recommended a proposal to the Council of Canadian Academies to have an independent expert panel assessment of the current state of scientific knowledge on potential environmental impacts from the development of shale gas resources as well as on the mitigation side of the equation. At the same time, I have requested, and the department has responded enthusiastically, an in-house study by our scientists, experts and officials to take a look at the environmental impacts of shale gas development in Canada.
There has been a certain amount of exaggeration in some areas of the media, which has unnecessarily alarmed people by connecting near surface shale gas, which has always allowed fugitive gases to come to the surface, with deep geologically sound structures from where, as a lot of the early evidence suggests, the shale gas development can be done responsibly and sustainably. I visited a shale gas operation in Dawson Creek during the summer. I saw a very professional and careful operation where they were not using any of our natural waters. They had created a pond and with the sort of unusual heavy rainfall this year, their entire water needs were being delivered from the skies. The water was being cleaned and will be returned at the end of the project to an environmentally safe state.
We need to know more. It is mainly the provinces' realm to administer responsibly, but we at Environment Canada are aware. We have had indications in Canada, unlike in the United States, where the industry has offered voluntarily to give us the combinations of chemicals that are used in the fracking technique. Of course, our world-renowned Chemicals Management Plan assesses all chemicals that are used industrially or commercially. While some chemicals in use industrially in Canada are definitely toxic, in some controlled circumstances they can be used quite safely if regulated and if best practices are followed.
Senator Wallace: Minister, you said that much of the jurisdiction around shale gas exploration falls under the authority of the provinces. In these two studies, will the department work in close collaboration with the provinces?
Mr. Kent: Certainly the results will be shared with the various provincial environment ministries. We talk all the time, and it is in our interests to provide the results. Environment Canada has great scientific capacity and expertise. As we accumulate this new body of information, it will be widely shared. We look forward, if you will permit me, to cross-pollination of our knowledge.
Senator Wallace: I have one final question: What is the time frame within which you would see the reports completed?
Mr. Kent: We are looking at probably 12 to 18 months.
Senator Dickson: Minister, thank you for your excellent presentation. You are doing a tremendous job as a communicator of all the good work that the Harper government has undertaken insofar as climate change is concerned as well as with regard to Parks Canada.
I am about midway between Senator Mitchell and Senator Neufeld, but completely onside with Senator Neufeld on global emissions. Canada is responsible for only 2 per cent of global emissions. I have never had any political aspirations, but I do not think that can be said enough times in any speeches that you give.
I want to come eventually to the coal-fired regulations. A huge burden is being placed on Nova Scotia through those regulations.
I am sure that you receive letters from Nova Scotia Power and from Premier Dexter. The first thing that comes to mind down there is, "Mr. Federal Government, give a cheque." Sometimes you do not have to give a cheque but rather defer some regulations to a later date.
In my humble opinion, what they are trying to undertake in Nova Scotia is insignificant. It is only 2 per cent. It is not only the direct costs. The cost is $216 million. The power corporation in Nova Scotia and the Government of Nova Scotia are saying it is not $216 million as a result of those coal-fired regulations, it is more like $1 billion, and there will be an increase in power rates in Nova Scotia. In addition, coal-fired plants will be closed. Those are high-paying jobs in the province of Nova Scotia.
Where is the federal government going with these negotiations? Hopefully, it is not a bottomless pit
— excuse the pun on mining. The second point is the jobs that will be lost as a result and what the priorization is.
The Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia is saying that the Point Tupper plant will be closed. You know what is happening in Point Tupper. The pulp mill there is in difficulty. The plant in Trenton will be closed as well, and in all probability one in Cape Breton. There are rumours that they will build another one.
Where does that negotiation stand? Do you believe that adequate consideration has been given to the cost implications, direct and indirect, for those regulations in the province of Nova Scotia?
Mr. Kent: The short answer is yes. We have been carrying out consultations since June of last year. We have worked with all of the generators, all of the operators in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
I cannot comment too specifically because we are still in the post-Canada Gazette one consultation period, but I know that Nova Scotia has intervened and made submissions. I will just say that, with regard to cost implications, we have been very careful in creating these regulations for new plants only, unlike the United States where regulations are being applied against operators old and new.
We recognize that the end of life of most operating plants is 45 years. In fact, most plants shut down years before that. We have recognized the unique circumstances of operators in different parts of the country and different parts of the provinces, with regard to the West. We are not prescriptive in our draft regulations in terms of advising operators how to get to the equivalent of mid-range optimum natural gas operators performance standards.
With regard to impact on consumers, our studies across the country and our modelling have shown that the impact should be almost negligible, perhaps $12 a year going into 2020 and by 2030.
My only comment relative to Nova Scotia would be that I think their modelling in terms of cost impact is based on an unrealistic expectation for the price of natural gas in the next couple of decades, given the abundance from both shale gas and conventional gas supplies.
We are listening. We consulted on the East Coast prior to making draft regulations for biofuels and additives to diesel. We listened, responded and accommodated. I would encourage all provinces, all stakeholders, all interested parties to take this consultation period seriously and we will respond with regulations. We do not want to strand investment capital. We do not want to discourage jobs or to negatively impact consumers. We believe that every emitting sector should play its part in reaching the national targets to which the Prime Minister put his signature.
Senator Dickson: With regard to your responsibility for Parks Canada, you mentioned the West and the middle of Canada, but you did not say much about the East. What is your intention as far as the East is concerned?
Mr. Kent: There is big news coming.
Senator Dickson, you know full well that there are some great natural spaces, both national parks and national historic sites, in Eastern Canada. I have not had a chance to visit them all yet. I would advise you to stay tuned on some good news on an island not far from Nova Scotia in the not-too-distant future.
Senator Dickson: Sable Island?
Mr. Kent: I did not mention the Arctic either, although I talked about Lancaster Sound. As I said, we are now protecting about 10 per cent of Canada's territory. We are working on declaring new marine heritage sites as well as national parks and wildlife protected areas. We are signatories to an agreement that we hope would protect up to 17 per cent of Canada's natural spaces in each of the 39 different locations.
Senator Dickson: Thank you very much. Do not forget Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
The Chair: Senator Dickson is much too modest to have allowed that he was the genius behind the great premier John Buchanan who is still with us and has Nova Scotia coursing through his veins, as does Senator Dickson.
Senator Brown: Minister Kent, I really enjoyed your presentation. It was excellent.
We talk about megatonnes of GHG. We do not know what the total is in the world, so we just throw out figures. I am bothered by the number of calamities we have had in North America this year and wondering whether we will blame them on GHGs.
Last year, a volcano erupted in Iceland which resulted in many airplanes being grounded. I read a report that said that it blew out more GHGs in a few weeks than North America produces in a year.
We had spring floods in southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba for months this year. At the same time, Texas, the second largest state in the union, has had no measurable rain at all, and Arizona's monsoon rains, which normally occur in August, have been pushed back into September this year. Then we had Japan's earthquake and tsunami. We have had so many earthquakes in New Zealand that magma is coming up through the cracks in sidewalks and people are leaving New Zealand by the droves.
Where do we get the percentage of all these things we want to call climate change, because these have to be climate change? Where do we get the percentage for GHGs?
Mr. Kent: The science is complicated and there are many opinions, some of them opposite, some of them convergent, on the exact measurement.
When I was first appointed by the Prime Minister to move over to Environment Canada, during one of our briefings our scientists presented a great supercomputer just outside Montreal airport that is responsible for all of our daily forecasting and extreme weather warnings and so forth; but in its free time, for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it did modelling that went back in recorded history in terms of warming, in terms of climate changes. They broke out two pictures. Without the industrial revolution, would the world have been warmer? There was a definite trend line that shows that warming and cooling are part of the cycles of the millennia for this planet; but when you add in the impact of the industrial revolution and the centuries since, the years since, that line goes up quite sharply and quite persuasively.
Our chief forecaster is reluctant to draw direct lines between increased extreme weather in terms of attributing all that we see to climate change. It is certainly different from my childhood, from what I remember, and I am sure what you remember, in terms of some of the extremes we are seeing today. I do not know if we can attribute earthquakes to climate change, but certainly there is powerful evidence that mankind and civilization have impacted our earthbound species like the caribou
— and I just had to, under a court order, present a woodland caribou recovery plan. The CFCs that we are emitting around the world do play a significant role. They are in the stratosphere; they are in the atmosphere; they are being linked to this Ontario-sized hole in the Arctic ozone.
I am persuaded that, if nothing else, by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in just the coal-fired sector alone, where we are reducing 99 per cent of the mercury emissions that are pumped out over Canada every year, we reducing nitrogen and sulphur oxides. We are making the air healthier for Canadians. I am persuaded that what we are doing is right. It is responsible. Whether or not we can keep to 2 degrees, the warming that the United Nations has set as a target, whether or not all of the large emitters in our lifetime will actually eliminate emissions
— and you are quite right, Senator Dickson's point that you cannot say often enough that Canada contributes only 2 per cent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere
— I am persuaded that we do need to do this and that in doing it, we not only make this country healthier, cleaner and better but we do exercise that moral leadership and it gives us the right to lobby the large emitters to do the right thing as well.
Senator Brown: I do not disagree with what we are doing in terms of trying to stop pollution, no matter what kind of pollution it is or where it is. I agree with that and have for a long time. What bothers me is that we call everything climate change.
Mr. Kent: Our scientists do not. I know the media does.
Senator Brown: Can you come out with a percentage, is what I am trying to ask. Is it 10 per cent of our problems with the calamities we have had in North America or is it 50 per cent or 90 per cent? What is causing this climate change? Are GHGs doing all of that or are we having some extraordinary climate changes that have nothing to do with GHGs?
Mr. Kent: GHGs and other pollutants, I think, open forest fires, volcanoes; those have been around for thousands of years. When I saw the modelling that the supercomputer cranked out, there was no question that we, civilization, have had a significant impact on our atmosphere.
When I was a young journalist back in the 1980s at
The Journal, I had the honour of producing, writing and reporting a mini-documentary on The Journal on the then theoretic concept of global warming. Many of the questions at the end of that program are still valid questions among scientists today, but I think there is consensus among scientists that there is a reality called climate change, and that whatever disagreement there might be on magnitude or percentages, as you ask, that is argued and debated. There was a report out by the CERN Institute several months ago on sunspots, but I think that we are contributing and that we do have effective mitigation measures that we can and should take.
Senator Brown: I agree with the pollution side of it. I would like to know how much is caused by CO2. I have seen so many things happen this year that I cannot buy that it is 100 per cent caused by CO2.
Mr. Kent: That is why we need more science, more analysis and more study. We are living in the blink of an eye in terms of eternity. This will not be solved today or tomorrow.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Brown. Those questions you asked are excellent ones and they are very much the type of questions that are on the minds of the people in our audience out there amongst Canadians.
It has a lot to do, as the minister has so thoughtfully pointed out, with nomenclature and with how this data in the science is described.
You have been very generous with your time, Minister. You have been patient with us all and very thoughtful. You are the first Conservative minister or representative of any kind who has ever come here to put a smile on my colleague Senator Mitchell's face. The fact is that we are not denying the realities that are out there. You have expressed it in a way that is very palatable and understandable. I want to record to show that.
Senator Mitchell: From a minister in your position in this government, it was very refreshing. Thank you very much. It was very powerful.
Mr. Kent: It is an honour. With regard to Senator Brown's last question, at some point I should make my withdrawal and allow the experts at Environment Canada to answer more fulsomely that sort of question.
The Chair: I have three questioners left. First, Senator Raine is not a regular member of the committee but she is extremely interested in the subject. She studies it. I get emails almost on a weekly or daily basis about this very subject of the science. It is a case of do we as a government believe in it? I think you will be getting a question now from Senator Raine.
Senator Raine: Thank you for having me and letting me speak.
I have to admit that what I read tells me that there is not a consensus among scientists. There are many different points of view and different kinds of research happening out there. One of the things that I am starting to see now is quite a few studies showing that we may be heading into a period of global cooling, which would maybe be a lot more problematic for Canada than global warming. Our country is on the cool side.
When your scientists are looking at all of these studies, especially when dealing with computer models, we all know that climate science is very complicated and complex. Depending on what you plug in, it will affect what comes out.
How open are the ministry of the environment scientists to the skeptic's point of view on global warming and greenhouse gas issues?
Mr. Kent: That is a good question. It is a question that a lot of Canadians and folks around the world are asking and arguing about. To specifically answer your question I would defer to our scientists to give those explanations.
There is no top-down influencing of decisions. As you know from the occasional leaks from the department, there is a fairly broad body of opinion and suggestions on how to proceed. It is accommodated.
I have only worked in two departments in government, but I must say Environment Canada is very open in terms of both the science and the leadership of our officials. With regard to the scientific response to your question, I would leave that to my scientists.
Senator Raine: Of course. Like Senator Brown, I fully appreciate what we have been going through the last few years in terms of dealing with pollution. On the greenhouse gas side of it, I am not so sure.
The one thing I keep coming up against is this whole dichotomy between media and scientists. Al Gore is not a scientist; he is media. The agenda has been a bit tipped on the fear-mongering from the media versus real science. Congratulations to this Senate committee, because that is the way they are looking at this issue.
Mr. Kent: I certainly agree with you with regard to Al Gore.
I would just say, in a day of fragmented media industry and fragmented advertising dollars, sensation sells better than the straight goods, which can sometimes be dull and incremental. I think there has been a significant amount of irresponsible reporting and distortion on both sides: those who would shut down all development absolutely in the interests of protecting the environment and the climate; and extremists on the other end, those who advocate exactly the opposite.
What we have to do, as I said in Question Period again today, is balance our interests in maintaining the best environment, the cleanest air and water that we can with a sustainable economy that generates jobs and all of those things that make this the great society that it is.
When you ask if I believe, I believe because the Prime Minister's signature is on the Copenhagen Accord. That accord says climate change exists and will be addressed.
Senator Mitchell: Well said. Good answer.
The Chair: Are you done?
Senator Raine: Yes.
The Chair: You will note that the minister has offered, from the scientists with him, to perhaps come forward for a moment. The hour is late.
I promised Senator Peterson a final short question, and Senator Neufeld has put in his bid and it has been accepted by the chair.
Senator Peterson: It might not be short, though.
It is a long discussion on underground carbon storage. When we had Minister Oliver here we posed this, and I believe he said we should ask you.
Primarily, there is a demonstration project in Alberta now. Who set the parameters on that and the standards? Are you monitoring it? Is this work in progress? Are you working with the provinces on if this will expand? There are many reservoirs in Saskatchewan that are depleted of oil that I think are a natural containment for this. Where is that at and how does this move forward?
Mr. Kent: We are moving forward, and Minister Oliver is right in one sense of the word. NRCan has invested in pilot projects in both Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Alberta government has set a direction with regard to carbon capture as a preferred technology. Our regulations are not prescriptive. If a power generator wants to build a new plant using natural gas to achieve those performance standards, more power to them.
However, there is evolving a body of knowledge, a body of science, with regard to carbon capture and storage. I think that the new plant that SaskPower is building is the best example of their expectation that it will work for the generating unit that this plant is being built for and for other generating units in their fleet.
Some of the operators we consulted with over the past year have said that where carbon capture is being developed in conventional oil and gas fields, where there are still secondary amounts of oil or gas to be recovered, there is the potential for a market in CO2 to be moved around, to be piped and to be used as the fuel to enable that secondary recovery of oil or gas.
It is evolving. It is not a perfected technology yet, but the Saskatchewan government has certainly indicated a billion dollars worth of confidence that the technology is viable.
Senator Peterson: We are primarily using it for enhanced oil recovery. There is a line that comes from Bismarck, so we can tap into that, but I am thinking of a straight disposal at sometime from other areas.
Mr. Kent: Again, it depends on geological formations and the assurance that what is put deep into the earth stays deep in the earth.
Senator Peterson: That is the issue, where some people say it might not stay there, and someone has to look at it eventually and say it will stay there and we will do it.
Mr. Kent: Science is not based on "maybe"; it is based on observed reality.
Senator Peterson: You are working on that?
Mr. Kent: We are working on that.
The Chair: Senator Neufeld, I think you have the last word here.
Senator Neufeld: One quick question, not to do with climate change but waste water regulations across Canada. To me, it is long overdue. I live in a province where our capital runs its raw sewage into the ocean, and that was fine, but all the rest of us had to treat it.
Will these regulations apply all across Canada? Every province and every territory will have exactly the same regulations? I was not aware that the federal government had
— I am not disputing it — the authority to actually put that in place, monitor and enforce it. Can you help me there?
Mr. Kent: Absolutely. We have been working for some time with the provinces and territories in developing national waste water standards. You are quite right, some municipalities, some large, some small, have been better at recognizing their responsibilities in treating waste water. There are estimates well over $100 billion as the figure that would be required to effectively correct all of the waste water problems that we have in the hundreds of communities, large and small, across Canada. We do have new waste water regulations that have been agreed upon and that we are about to begin bilateral negotiations, province by province, to incorporate.
The big question, of course, is for those with the biggest and most expensive dollar figures to correct their waste water problems, who pays for it and how fast? We certainly have made significant investments during the infrastructure stimulus, the Economic Action Plan. We have committed and made permanent the $2 billion in gas tax rebates to municipalities, but it still remains a major challenge.
When the regulations are rolled out across the country, the objective is to have the remedial action in place or in action by 2020, by the end of the decade. The largest single challenge we have with regard to clean water in Canada is incorporating and enacting waste water.
The Chair: That concludes our direct questioning. In response to Senator Brown and Senator Raine, was it Ms. Dodds that you had in mind in terms of answering?
Mr. Kent: The deputy is willing to put himself on the firing line.
The Chair: The idea would be that this would be fairly brief, would it?
Paul Boothe, Deputy Minister, Environment Canada:
The Chair: Maybe we will have that and call it a night.
Are you staying, minister?
Mr. Kent: Do you mind?
The Chair: Not at all. This will hopefully be of interest to all of us.
Mr. Boothe, thank you for being here and for being prepared to do this.
Mr. Boothe: Thank you. Maybe I could address both Senator Brown's and Senator Raine's questions together.
The first thing I would say is that there are a lot of things that people attribute to climate change that climate change models do not predict. In talking with our climate change scientists, none of them are saying that Icelandic volcanic eruptions are climate change. Actually, our senior meteorologist weather forecaster, Dave Phillips, who is well known, most of the time when people ask, "Dave, is that climate change?" he will say, "No, it is just crazy weather."
Recognizing that, the other thing that I think our scientists would want me to say is that climate change is not coming; it is here. If you need to be convinced about this, just go to the Arctic. The whole idea of measuring temperatures over an entire globe is pretty difficult. The global rise in temperature is still less than one degree centigrade, as best as they can measure. In the Arctic, it is three times that.
For example, I was in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island a couple of summers ago, and melting permafrost washed out the town's only bridge that separated it from its services. When you only get one shipment a year and you have to order a year ahead, this is a big problem. If you go to Inuvik, you will see that all the houses are starting to tilt over as the permafrost melts.
Climate change is here right now. There is still debate about this, but we have seen a rise in temperatures on the Prairies and in B.C. The pine beetle has cost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Our sense is that you have to take a prudent approach to this. It has been said a number of times that we are only 2 per cent of global emissions, and that is absolutely true. However, when Minister Kent goes to international climate change meetings, we sit between Brazil and China. One of the things the Chinese ambassador would say is that, sure, we have bigger emissions than you, but you have 22 tonnes per person and we have 5 or 6 tonnes per person.
There are different ways, and different countries have different perspectives on who is really responsible for this problem.
Some of our scientists, as you know, shared in the big Nobel Prize that went to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and we are very proud of that. Basically, their research is submitted to peer-reviewed journals. They have to defend themselves in the scientific community and they have to be open to all the different kinds of criticisms in order to get their publications in top journals. As the minister knows, our scientists have published in the top journals in the world. Environment Canada is the largest producer of environmental science in the world outside of the U.S. It is bigger than both Europe and Australia.
Therefore, we want to maintain that strong science. We want them to have an open mind. The minister and I rely on their advice. They are not saying it is the Icelandic volcanoes, but they are saying that it is real, and that is the best science that we have to work on. That is what we base our advice to the minister and the government on.
Senator Brown: Thank you. I do not have any argument with climate change; I have an argument with GHGs causing everything. That is what I am trying to get at.
Mr. Boothe: Senator, you will not hear that from Environment Canada.
Senator Brown: I wish they would call it pollution instead of climate change. We tried climate change for 18,000 years.
The Chair: Mr. Boothe, if I am not mistaken, once again we are into this communications bubble, that so many of these things look so different if they are properly communicated, and I think you folks have a challenge. I hope that tonight is helpful to you from your point of view. It has been very illuminating for all of us, and I cannot emphasize enough how much we appreciate the time you have taken and the patience you have had with us and your thoughtful answers to our questions. I hope we will see you at an informal event soon.
I will be in touch with you, if that is okay with you, minister, and we will have an off-the-record session with the committee at dinner.
Mr. Kent: It is always a pleasure.
The Chair: To your officials whom we did not call forward, thank you all very much for being here as well. I hope you have seen that the senators were all wide awake the whole time and very much focused in on and interested in these issues.
Thank you all. Colleagues, are there any further interventions? I will then call the meeting adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)