As noted in OotD, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan will be
appearing before committee this afternoon to discuss his latest
, which found that Canada's 2020 greenhouse gas reduction
goals remain "far out of reach," and estimated that cleaning up federally-owned contaminated sites could cost as much as $7.7 billion.
Today's session is set to get underway at 3:30 pm, so check back for full coverage!
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 6:55:12 PM
Due to the (comparatively) remote locale, it always seems that Sparks/Queen committee meetings take a little bit longer to get underway, but it seems that we're about to do just that: the chair - Mark Warawa - has gavelled in the session, and Commissioner Vaughn is whipping through an admirably succinct opening statement at a brisk pace. Yay! More time for questions!
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:31:58 PM
Vaughan summarizes the major points in his report -- Kyoto non-compliance and the lack of actual numbers to back up its chosen non-Kyoyo greenhouse gas reduction plan, contaminated sites, how jobs and the environment aren't mutually exclusive priorities and finally, what, exactly, Environment Canada is doing to address his findings.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:36:02 PM
Over to the government side for the first round of questions, which goes to ... Parliamentary Secretary Michelle Rempel, who begins by trying to get the commissioner to confirm the government's main talking point on the climate change findings; namely, that the data was old. Unfortunately, neither the commissioner nor his assistant, Kimberly Leach, is willing to do so, with the latter politely, but categorically, refusing to to do - not to the extent that Rempel was hoping, at least. (Not surprisingly, the report was based on more than one source of information, which is why neither witness is prepared to declare their findings past the best before date for scientific relevancy.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:39:48 PM
Rempel shifts to the issue of economic costing, and invites Vaughan to agree that it would be "prudent" to talk to "stakeholders" before releasing those estimates, at least as far as 2020 GHG goals. Vaughan doesn't disagree, and cheerfully acknowledges that no, he wasn't able to include data released since his report was complete. "We've been very clear that Environment Canada has consistently done a better year, every year," Vaughan assures her -- from 2007 until now, there has been "a noticeable improvement."
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:43:17 PM
NDP Meagan Leslie begins *her* question round by -- oh, clever thing, she's giving notice of a motion, which would have the committee study various aspects of the omnibudget bill that are directly pertinent to its mandate. Now, even if the committee *is* forced in camera, she'll be able to discuss the details of *her* part of the Great Budget Split Gambit of 2012. (Regular raders will recall that a similarly committee-specific motion was tabled at Public Accounts earlier today, which makes me think the NDP isn't putting all its faith in the progress of the ongoing negotiations between house leaders.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:46:23 PM
Meanwhile, the Conservatives just managed to shut down an NDP question that wended its way to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Megan Leslie attempts to challenge it, despite the chair sniffing that it's just a dilatory motion. "I know how it will turn out," she assures him - presumably, she just wants to get it on the record. Warawa hands the floor over to the clerk to call the vote - a *recorded* vote, no less. Not surprisingly, the decision is sustained.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:48:49 PM
Wait -- there's a contaminated site at the Port of Montreal? Not the *Old* Port, I hope. Doesn't it have enough on its hand with the imminent expense-related committee inquiry into its embattled director?
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:52:52 PM
Back to the government side of the table, and Stephen Woodworth, who will, it seems, go over pretty much the same ground already tilled by his colleague during her stint at the mic. Leach concurs, and notes that the report makes it clear that the modeling was created in 2010. Emboldened, Woodworth turns to the departmental trend report, and Leach notes that several regulations -- coal fire, transportation and several others -- were taken into account, although regulations that have yet to come into effect were not. Oh, thank you for making me feel slightly less slow-witted, commissioner: He just intervened to point out that this *is* complicated; he thinks the important number is the 17 tonnes. "This is difficult," he notes -- not just the math, but bringing down emissions. "Right now, there's not enough there, and there's not enough time," although he'd be happy to be proven wrong when 2020 rolls around.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 7:58:37 PM
Vaughn notes that the *real* challenge is that the number is going in the wrong direction -- above and beyond quibbles over the details, that, itself is worrying.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:00:59 PM
Over to Kirsty Duncan - lone Liberal on the environment committee, who wonders whether the government demonstrated "legal responsibility" with regard to the Kyoto Accord. Vaughan reiterates the gist of his report, which was that the government simply failed to comply with it, and describes the gap between the goal and the current reality is enormous.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:03:05 PM
Duncan gets Vaughan to expand on the potential risk to human health posed by high priority contaminated sites; the commissioner lists the criteria that must be met to be considered as such - proximity to communities, local aquiffers, that sort of thing. He then hands the floor over to his colleague, Trevor, who does indeed have a last name, but whose nameplate is blocked from this perspective, so let's just call him Trevor. Oh, Trevor doesn't even *have* a nameplate -- he's been called up from the audience.
As Trevor settles under the gentle but unblinking gaze of committee scrutiny, Vaughan is downright lyrical in his account of visiting a contaminated site in the Yukon, where continuous mining operations and the melting of the permafrost has led to serious risk. (Shaw! Trevor Shaw. There, now we all know a little bit more.)
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:08:04 PM
Back to the NDP, and Francois Choquette, who gives Vaughan the opportunity to respond to the "Old Data, Didn't Read" meme that the government is propagating in response to his findings, which the commissioner handles gracefully - and diplomatically - by highlighting both the urgency of the situation and his current less-than-optimistic outlook. Choquette then manages to sneak back to an omnibudget-related question -- the decision to end the National Round Table for the Environment and the Economy. Once again, Vaughan refuses to be drawn into commenting on matters of politics, and notes that the department couldn't provide further analysis of the plan as it hadn't actually produced one. Well, that has the makings of a sustainable long-term plan.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:14:01 PM
Conservative MP James Lunney takes issue with the suggestion that his government is leaving the clean up of contaminated sites to future generations; we are, he points out, just halfway through a 20 year action plan. Vaughan doesn't disagree -- well, not directly -- and notes that some projects *will* take "generations" to fully remediate. Lunney then proceeds to violate in camera secrecy by bringing up something *he* mentioned at a past closed-door meeting, prompting affectionate chuckles and a joking 'Contempt!' from the other side of the table. (It was all about technology, and how eventually, it will save humanity from our hopelessly messy selves.) Oh, and it seems that the contaminated site plan is a 15 year cycle, not 20 as I foolishly believed.)
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:18:56 PM
One more round - I suspect this is the last, that is - for the Official Opposition, which again turns its attention to sector-by-sector regulation within a GHG reduction perspective. Vaughan *again* seems uncomfortable being asked to critique - or even condemn - political decisions; as for those Montreal-centric contaminated site, he doesn't believe those present immediate danger to the public. (And yes, apparently, there *is* at least one within the Old Port of Montreal.)
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:21:26 PM
Would we be facing the same problems as today had the Rio Summit been successful, the NDP MP whose nameplate I can't see wonders. Ahh, another political question. The commissioner will not be lured down *that* dangerous path. Meanwhile, David Christopherson has just turned up. I wonder if he's going to bring the spirit of civil procedural disobedience to *this* committee too.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:24:22 PM
And it seems that Michelle Rempel will wrap up the session -- that's a nice bit of time slotting by the government, which gets to do both direct and final cross-examination of the witness, with the opposition sides unable to challenge the final iteration of the narrative du jour.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:26:42 PM
Rempel is now challenging the notion that the contaminated site plan is underfunded, and citing Treaury Board guidelines to bolster her case: it would be the custodial departments that would be responsible for paying those costs, and as such, the money may well have been set aside. Vaughan notes that he was looking for a consolidated plan, which that is not.
Rempel *then* tries to get Vaughan say that this is the first government to attempt to regulate on climate change, which prompts a grumpy outburst of points ofer from the other side of the table. The chair, however, allows it, and Vaughan's response is fascinating: this is the *only* government to attempt to address climate changes solely through regulations, he points out - not just in Canada, but even compared to the US.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:31:07 PM
And with that, we're done! Hope you enjoyed the coverage. We even got a bit of procedural wrangling to keep us on our toes.
by Kady O'Malley 5/8/2012 8:31:49 PM