Greening our government culture

Greening our government culture - Transcript

The honourable Scott Brison standing at a poduim

Thank you very much, Taki. I am very pleased to be here with you today.

I would like to actually be spending a longer time this morning, but I have to leave tonight to meet my counterpart in the new administration in Washington.

I hope that my travels go more smoothly than yours with that, but thank you very much.

Driving from Hamilton to be here and looking fresh and energetic.

And that’s because I believe that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for what – for the discussions we’re launching here.

I’ve got a little bit of history on this. I’ve got a little bit of history on a lot of things, not necessarily all positive, but on this one, I have a real passion for greening of government. And going back to my days as Minister of Public Works and Government Services in Paul Martin’s government, at that time we established the Greening of Government operations in now Public Works, now Public Services and Procurement Canada.

It’s something that there are a number of departments – in fact, all departments have a role to play, departments and agencies. And there’s a number of departments that play very critical roles in this. I’m pleased to be here with you to help launch this discussion. I want to welcome all our guests, those of us from academia and business and NGOs who are sharing their insights with us today as we start these discussions.

I also want to reference there are some parliamentarians who have a great deal of interest in this – in this file. And unfortunately, Greg Fergus, the local MP for Hull-Aylmer, cannot join us today. Greg is a relentless colleague, together with Will Amos and Steve MacKinnon from Gatineau. These three MPs work very hard to serve the people of the Outaouais.

Finally, I want to thank also Catherine McKenna’s from the other side of the river as Minister of Environment who’s very supportive of and engaged in this.

I really want to pay tribute to our Parliamentary Secretary Joyce Murray. Joyce and I worked together when she was a minister in the provincial government in B.C., and I was minister federally. And there were several files at that time, and one of the things I learned with Joyce, you can’t say no to Joyce Murray. She never gives up, and she has a tenacity and a focus in her work which is really important, and particularly in files like greening of government where you need that – across government to have that passion. She also is somebody who has, both through government, but also through her business career as an entrepreneur in green industry, a deep understanding of the importance of engagement with the private sector in terms of driving real results.

And thank you, Nick. We were talking earlier. Nick is a – like me, is a graduate of Dalhousie. I just graduated with an undergraduate degree from Dalhousie. He’s much smarter; he has a Master’s from Dal. But thank you for your leadership on this, and for your team’s leadership. We will – your leadership, your enthusiasm, your commitment to this is shared throughout our government, and our Prime Minister, Prime Minister Trudeau is passionate about this. I’ll be seeing him later on this afternoon. And this is something that he has a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement for.

We’ve just set up the new Centre for Greening Government in my department, the Treasury Board Secretariat. The – putting this centre in Treasury Board, I think, is – is really helpful to driving results across government.

As you know, everything goes through Treasury Board from – you know, and does so on a fairly frequent basis. And when we met with Obama administration people in D.C. some time ago about greening of government, one of the things they felt was – their OMB was very engaged in this, and they felt that Treasury Board in Canada was a very good place to place this office.

Of course our main new building at 90 Elgin across the river is a great example of energy efficient design. In fact, we were speaking earlier today, Taiki, about the location of the Centre of Greening Government. And this building is a LEED Gold building. We have a green roof. We – of course energy efficient LED lighting throughout. We even have a living wall with – you know, a green wall with plants growing on it in the lobby. It looks a little bit like the inside of my locker at the MPs’ gym, but unlike my locker, it actually helps reduce the building’s heating and cooling costs, so it makes a real, tangible difference.

My role is to drive that change within government to help reduce our carbon footprint, and contribute to our green, sustainable economy of the future. I just want to make three points here this morning.

One is that reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as a country is a key priority of our government. Federal government leadership is critical, and we need to, as a government, demonstrate that leadership and help lead a national partnership.

Clearly, reducing emissions is a priority for the Government of Canada, and we’ve set the bar high. In Paris, we committed to a target of reducing our emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030. And for our own operations within the government, we are even more ambitious. We’ll reduce our emissions by 40% by 2030. To that end, we’re setting the right metrics to start, and then we’re measuring the results. And all of this results focus on greening of government will be driven by the new Centre in Treasury Board.

The second point I want to make is about the importance of our leadership role. Governments are not necessarily the biggest polluters in Canada, but we are some of the largest and most influential organizations in the country, in part because we’re big consumers, whether it’s of office space or DND facilities or the goods and services we acquire.

When we build green, when we lease green, when we buy green, we help build a broader greener market that can benefit all consumers, and of course at the same time help green our environment, reduce emissions, but at the same time create jobs and growth in the green economy.

We need to show Canadians that we’re serious about this and that what we’re asking Canadians to do, what we’re asking businesses to do, that we are willing to do ourselves and play a leadership role. We’re putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak, and that means getting our own house in order.

There’s been a lot of important work done in government already, whether Department of Natural Resource, DND, Public Services and Procurement have done really good work. Departments are – have been and will be significant contributors to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There’s a real opportunity to build on that work, to support that work and to expand on that work. For its part, DND will be buying renewable energy for their facilities in Alberta, as an example. Public Services and Procurement, by 2025, a hundred percent of the electricity it uses will come from clean energy.

I want just for a moment on the DND example, one of the things in meetings with our – in the – in Washington, some of the greatest leadership in greening government came from National Defence in the U.S. under the – George W. Bush’s administration. And it wasn’t done just on the basis of – it wasn’t done purely on the basis of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it was done on the basis of energy security and operational efficacy for emissions. And the reason I mention that is that I believe that this is not a partisan issue, that this is something we should be able to engage all parliamentarians from all parties and different people from – from different perspectives to achieve a greater good.

We’re sending a strong signal, and Public Works I mentioned in terms of clean energy and the utilization of clean energy, we’re sending a strong signal that departments in the Government of Canada are going to lead by example. In Budget 2016, the Government announced $2.1 billion for repairs, retrofits, and greening of our facilities. The energy efficiencies to be gained will make a big difference.

In Ottawa, for example, heating and cooling plants that service about 80 buildings will be modernized, cutting their emissions almost in half. Similar reductions will occur in federal buildings across Canada, and we’re confident we can move the needle in a significant way and cut emissions in the Government of Canada and demonstrate real leadership. And that’s what we’re going to through this centre.

The last point I want to make today is really a request — a request for you to join us. We need your help. We need your – your work, your leadership, your passion, commitment and ongoing engagement. We all have a role to play at work and at home. I want to invite everybody in the room to broadcast the proceedings on social media, #GreeningGovernment, to enlist even broader public support and engagement.

I’m awfully happy that cab driver had heard of this. I assume he was driving an electric vehicle. It just goes to show cab drivers know everything that’s going on, but this is a – you know, I do think we need to raise the profile of what we’re doing, and part of raising the profile in the broader community is it makes it seem more real within government. This is something that we should not hide our light under a bushel—not to get too biblical this early in the morning—but this is something we ought to be promoting on a – in a vigorous way to help reinforce its importance within the Government of Canada.

It’s going to be important that we work with other governments—international, provincial and municipal. There’s a lot of great leadership coming from municipal governments and agencies as well. And we are – we want to learn from their experiences, and we want to learn from the ideas, the expertise and the inspiration of people outside of governments here within Canada. We’ve been working closely – I mentioned some of the collaborations with U.S. federal departments to share ideas, best practices. We will continue that work in D.C. and with some state governments as well that have demonstrated great leadership.

We have much to learn from each other on this journey. And I believe this is the best way forward. So let’s share our ideas, our tools, our knowledge, our best practices and come together to be a leader within Canada, but I believe the Canadian government has a leadership role to play in the world in terms of greening of government operations. We’ve got a long ways to go. This is – and we need to be ambitious, we need to be focussed. I have twin daughters who just turned three yesterday. Having children of my own, I think for a lot of us, having children, it does put environmental sustainability and the future of our planet in a different perspective. We in this room have a unique opportunity to make a difference. Let’s seize that opportunity.

Let’s make a difference. Let’s work together and drive change. And thank you very much for having me here this morning, and I look forward to learning more from you and to meeting with Taiki and Joyce after and our team to learn some of the good ideas and perspectives brought to bear here this morning. So thank you very much.

(Applause.)

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