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Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources: Session in review
August 28, 2017

Few countries are blessed with the abundance of natural resources found in Canada. The Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources strives to balance economic prosperity with environmental protection. The committee has worked for decades to secure a lifeline of Canada’s economy while protecting Canada’s vast yet fragile environment.

In March 2016, the committee began its study on how Canada can meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets under the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. The committee is examining the five sectors responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions: electricity, transportation, oil and gas, buildings, and emission-intensive trade-exposed industries. These five sectors of the national economy are responsible for 80% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The study focuses particularly on the costs to energy users in their day-to-day lives.

To hear from Canadians across the country, the committee embarked on several fact-finding missions. Senators met with provincial farmers associations, renewable energy producers, universities and colleges, petrochemical factories, steel producers, non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.

Since March, the committee has released two reports: Positioning Canada’s Electricity Sector in a Carbon Constrained Future and Decarbonizing Transportation in Canada. When Parliament reconvenes in the fall, the committee will continue its study on transitioning to a lower-carbon economy. Committee members are planning to release the third interim report, on oil and gas, before the end of the year.

The committee will continue to advocate for a greener, sustainable future.

“Canadians are literally in the driver’s seat when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases. They are the people behind the wheel. The choices they make can generate significant contributions toward meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals. Greening Canada’s transportation sector will hit Fred and Martha in their pocketbook, whether by purchasing a lower-emitting vehicle or paying a carbon tax at the fuel pump, so policymakers must be mindful of passing down these costs to consumers and making it unaffordable.”

- Senator Richard Neufeld, Chair of the committee

“By now, everyone knows that Canada, like every country on the globe, must act to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it produces. It’s going to mean a substantial adjustment in the way Canadians live, but we must weigh that against the cost of not doing anything — something which is now unthinkable.”

- Senator Paul Massicotte, Deputy Chair of the committee


Members of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, from left, senators Percy Mockler, Deputy Chair Paul Massicotte, Chair Richard Neufeld and Dennis Patterson, pause in front of the NOVA Chemicals manufacturing plant in Sarnia, Ont.

Committee members senators Douglas Black, Diane Griffin, Rosa Galvez and Dennis Patterson take in the Summerside Wind Farm in Prince Edward Island.

This article is part of a series showcasing Senate committees — a report back to Canadians about the work committee members have accomplished during the past sitting of Parliament.

Committees are at the core of the Senate's work. They are recognized for their major contributions to legislation and public policy. Senator Muriel McQueen Fergusson, the first female Speaker of the Senate, called committees "the heart and soul of the Senate.”

In the last four years alone, over 7,500 witnesses have appeared before Senate committees, leading to the crafting of 531 reports and improved legislation. 

Through this work, senators speak up for their regions and give a powerful voice to underrepresented groups like women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and linguistic and visible minorities.