1st Session, 41st Parliament – November 29, 2012

Hon. Grant Mitchell:

“Honourable senators, I think what some people have learned, at least what has been illustrated by the holdup in getting approval for the gateway and for the Keystone pipelines, is that we will not get to build these if we cannot get social licence and get the public on side to allow these to be built. The public will not give that social licence unless Canada can demonstrate that it is really good on the environment. Therefore, the government should be extremely careful about the kind of anti-environment message it is sending to the public of Canada, the public of the U.S. and the public of the world.

The Experimental Lakes Area is world renowned for the scientific work it does on many water-related issues, such as the reclamation of waters in the oil sands in northern Alberta.

What message does this government think it is sending to the public of Canada, the people of British Columbia, the people of the U.S. and the world when it shuts down the Experimental Lakes Area to save $2 million? The Experimental Lakes Area is world renowned in its impact and contribution to higher environmental outcomes and higher environmental standards.”

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):

“First, honourable senators, we are not sending an anti-environmental message — anything but. Minister Kent is headed off to Doha, and we have made great strides following the Copenhagen Accord in meeting our targets. An announcement was made yesterday about fuel consumption in vehicles.

The Experimental Lakes Area project, as I mentioned before, is a project that the federal government is no longer funding because we have many other scientific projects under way that meet the present-day needs with regard to information we need for the environment.

Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, just yesterday the leader was saying this government was going to listen to science on the gateway pipeline, yet every scientist in the water science area in Canada, and many in the world, will say there is nothing being done like what is being done at the Experimental Lakes Area. It is world-class and it is above almost any other water initiative in this country. Why not listen to the scientists on this?

I would like to explore the process by which this government sets priorities. During the Olympics we saw ads for bullets and bayonets and the War of 1812 right in the middle of the Olympic Games, which they say — and of course they do — bring the youth of the world together in peace. What juxtaposition: Bullets and bayonets, world youth together in peace. That cost $1.8 million in advertising.

Does the leader think, just for a moment, that it might have been better to spend the $1.8 million on the Experimental Lakes Area and keep it open for one more year, or just about?

Senator LeBreton:

I am curious and somewhat puzzled by the angst expressed by the honourable senator’s side over Canadians being told about our history.

Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Heritage are allocated sums of money and have programs that fall under their mandates. The mandate of Canadian Heritage is to promote Canadian history and culture. As I pointed out here a few days ago, within its existing envelope of funds Canadian Heritage is going to participate in many events leading up to Canada’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday. I hope that everyone in the country would want to celebrate Sir John A. Macdonald and Canada’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday.

We have all expressed concern over the lack of knowledge of Canadian history of our younger people. Very few provinces in the country include history as a mandatory subject in their curriculum. The monies expended to commemorate the War of 1812 have absolutely nothing to do with the many millions of dollars spent by other departments.

I fail to see, honourable senators, how the money that we are putting into science and technology in the Department of the Environment, which underscores the fact that there was no longer any need to fund the Experimental Lakes Area, has anything to do with the mandate of another department to promote Canadian history and culture.”

Senator Mitchell:

“Honourable senators, I guess the people of Edmonton will be interested to hear that the government is actually doing things to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Canada because it sure did not help Edmonton with its 2017 Expo application.

Back to the idea of what messages the government is setting, there may be a glimmer of hope. Maybe this message is getting through to the leader. I have not heard anyone on her side, either here or in the other place, actually attacking environmental NGOs and foundations that fund them. Has the government now received the message that by attacking U.S. environmental NGOs you are sending exactly the wrong message when you are trying to get social licence to build Keystone and to diversify markets? Have you finally got that message and have you told some of your members to stop putting down those environmental NGOs in the U.S.?”