Ozone Monitoring

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise at this point in our adjournment procedures to pursue a question that I initially asked the hon. Minister of the Environment on Wednesday of last week, September 21.

The issue of ozone monitoring and threatened cuts to key scientists who perform these functions was also raised by the Liberal environment critic and by the environment critic of the official opposition. I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment here this evening for pursuing this matter.

It is complicated. What we have been able to determine relates to a number of very key senior scientists for whom it would not be possible to imagine an easy replacement, scientists who have decades of expertise in working at monitoring ozone, which at the stratospheric level protects all life on earth from ultraviolet radiation. Without the ozone layer, there would be no life on earth, and we are very fortunate that Canadian government leadership led to the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer back in 1987.

Since that time, Canada has always been respected globally as a country that has really taken the lead, done the good science and been prepared, as with all countries. It was a great success story that the Montreal Protocol has resulted in countries around the world reducing and phasing out their reliance on chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that destroy the ozone layer.

It was a great shock to discover through the media and elsewhere that a number of key scientists had received a letter to suggest that their positions with Environment Canada were in doubt. They received a letter saying that they could be affected by changes in work assignments, and that this was, as the Minister of the Environment explained to me privately, pursuant to directives that are required by Treasury Board in the workforce adjustment directive.

I will just explain the position of these key scientists. One is the manager for the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. It is absolutely essential, and there is only one manager. That person has received a letter and may be laid off.

There is also a person who is responsible for the ozonesonde program, which allows weather balloons to be let go once a week in 17 locations across Canada, maintaining a very good record of ozone level measurements, which, by the way, tell us about tropospheric ozone as well. Ironically, while stratospheric ozone protects all life on earth, ground level ozone is a pollutant, and in fact measuring ground level ozone is a good way of maintaining monitoring of oil sands operations in the region. I will get back to that point as well.

The other person who has been threatened is the person who does the scientific assessments.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary.

As I look at what we have heard so far, the Minister of the Environment said in the House, “We are not cutting any ozone monitoring services”. In contradistinction to that, the Environment Canada assistant deputy minister, Madam Dodds, has said to the media, “We don’t really need the same level of ozone monitoring”.

I would like some guidance from the parliamentary secretary. It seems that certainly within the scientific community there are deep concerns that we will lose key capacity to protect the ozone layer and monitor what is happening with its protection, and at the same time lose the ability to monitor pollutants at ground level.

Who was correct? Was it the Minister of the Environment in the House, or was it the assistant deputy minister when she suggested that these key services could be lost?

Michelle Rempel: Mr. Speaker, it is nice to have the opportunity to address my colleague for the first time in the House on this lovely fall evening. Let me reiterate what the Minister of the Environment has repeatedly told the House.

Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone. Our plan is to ensure Canada’s strong track record of atmospheric ozone measurement continues to deliver sound science within budget. We acknowledge that Canada is a world leader in atmospheric ozone science and has been for 50 years. Many of the measurement methods used globally were pioneered by Canadians. In fact, Canada also holds the longest record of ozone observations in the Arctic in the world at Resolute Bay where regular ozone measurements have been carried out since 1966.

At present, Environment Canada uses two different methods to measure ozone, the Brewer network, and as the member opposite has mentioned, the ozonesonde network. However, as the member opposite is well aware, technologies and methods of measurement change and improve over time. Our plan, rather than what the member opposite has suggested, is to optimize and integrate these two networks. This will include a review of existing network sites in terms of their scientific validity in order for Canada to fully meet its requirements for surveillance of ozone holes and the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Canada shares its ozone network data internationally via the World Meteorological Organization, the WMO, and for many years has maintained the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. The WMO supplies the data to other weather centres and agencies in Europe and in the U.S.

Environment Canada is not closing the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, which we have successfully hosted for many years. Environment Canada will have staff dedicated to both of these activities and will continue to achieve quality results.

I repeat, Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere. We will not close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.