The federal environment minister and her top officials were unable to provide concrete numbers on Canada's new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a parliamentary committee.
Leona Aglukkaq's appearance created some sparks at a normally low-key Commons environment committee meeting.
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She was grilled on her recent announcement Canada will cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
That target has been submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as Canada's intended, nationally-determined contribution. It's part of the international effort to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees.
Aglukkaq called the targets "fair and ambitious," but didn't say what the 30 per cent reduction actually means in tonnes of carbon pollution that would have to be cut annually.
Liberal MP John McKay went after Aglukkaq's deputy minister, Michael Martin, for the answer.
"What is it in terms of megatonnes?" he asked.
"Actually I can't do the math off the top off the top of my head but would happy to provide the number to the committee," said Martin.
It clearly took McKay by surprise.
"Really?" he asked. "I find it quite remarkable that you should state the target for 2030 of 30 per cent and not know what that is in megatonnes."
Martin promised to provide numbers to the committee members at some point later.
When ministers appear at committee they are accompanied by their top bureaucrats and a herd of staff lugging heavy binders of information. But none of those binders appeared to contain the number Canada will strive to reach.
McKay found it all very odd.
"I would have thought if you had a percentage reduction you would know what the bottom line is," he said in an interview outside the committee hearings.
"They just want to have a press release — a talking point, but no real number."
Aglukkaq's staff denies avoiding question
Aglukkaq wouldn't talk about the target number with reporters either, but said her government is reducing the country's carbon footprint by bringing in rules for individual sectors.
"The sector-by-sector approach that we have taken reflects Canada's footprint and we are proud of those accomplishments and initiatives that we have taken," she said.
An hour later, Aglukkaq's director of communications, Ted Laking, called CBC to sort out the confusion.
"I did the calculations on my way back to work," Laking said.
"The 2005 levels were 749 megatonnes. Multiply that by 0.3 and you get 224, so it would be 224 megatonnes [reduction] by 2030," he said.
When asked why a deputy minister couldn't have easily done that too, Laking said: "That was cheesy question. He didn't have the numbers off the top of his head, he was not avoiding the question."
Laking later emailed a further clarification: "Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 were 749 MT. A 30 per cent reduction of this is 225 MTs. The minister was happy to once again highlight Canada's ambitious target to reduce our emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030," said the email.
Aglukkaq also told the committee she hasn't discussed details of Canada's new climate goal with the provinces, including Ontario, the largest jurisdiction in the country. The federal government had said provinces and territories must play a big part in helping Canada reaching its goal to cut carbon pollution.
"In the case of Ontario, I have not received the details of Ontario's plan in terms of their initiatives as to how it translates to actual GHG reductions," said Aglukkaq.
But a spokesman for Ontario's environment minister said the sum total of the consultation with his government was being asked to fill out a form detailing its goals.
"Demanding that provinces fill out a template form does not constitute sufficient consultation on behalf of the federal government, especially given the severity of the climate change problem," said Lucas Malinowski in an email.
"In developing its [intended, nationally-determined contribution], the federal government did not carry out a robust or genuine consultation with the province of Ontario," he added.
Aglukkaq says she plans to have detailed discussions on climate change and Canada's targets with all the provinces at a meeting of Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment next month.