Bill C-474 (Historical)
Federal Sustainable Development Act
An Act to require the development and implementation of a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the development of goals and targets with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
John Godfrey Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill.
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment provides the legal framework for developing and implementing a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy that will make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to Parliament.
The enactment gives a committee of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada responsibility for overseeing the development and implementation of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. It also provides for the creation of the Sustainable Development Office to develop and maintain systems and procedures to monitor progress on implementation of the Strategy and for the creation of the Sustainable Development Advisory Council to offer the Government of Canada advice on the Strategy.
It requires certain departments and agencies to develop and implement sustainable development strategies that contain objectives and action plans for each department and agency, that comply with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and that contribute to the attainment of the Strategy’s objectives.
It also amends the Auditor General Act to give the Commissioner the mission to monitor the progress that these departments and agencies make in implementing the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and to assess the Sustainable Development Office’s report of the implementation of the Strategy. As well, it sets out the Commissioner’s powers and obligations.
- Feb. 13, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act (duty to examine)
Private Members' Business
November 25th, 2013 / 11:50 a.m.
Francine Raynault Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, Canada has had a deplorable environmental record for quite some time. When compared to other OECD countries, Canada is ranked second last. It is very urgent that we adopt a set of measures to help us do better. That is primarily what Bill C-481 would do if it were passed.
The situation is urgent and although some would prefer to ignore the scientific evidence behind global warming, it is a factor that could adversely affect our economy, our health and the future of our children.
Since 1948, the average temperature in Canada has increased by 1.3°C and much more quickly than in other parts of the world. To get a sense of what that means for the economy, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy estimates that this will cost $5 billion by 2020 and between $41 and $43 billion by 2050.
Of course, a number of us will not be around in 2050 to see the impact for ourselves. That is precisely why sustainable development is important. I will say it again: sustainable. With all the scientific tools available, not only is it irresponsible to take no action to counter global warming, but it is also unfair because it deprives our future citizens of a world that we enjoyed.
That may be difficult for some to understand, but we have an urgent duty to attack a problem that will go down in history as one of the greatest challenges of our time. One day, our children and grandchildren will ask themselves, what did we do?
First, we must recognize that the House passed Bill C-474, Federal Sustainable Development Act unanimously in 2008. Thus, we can say that everyone agrees that something must be done. As for exactly what to do and how far to go, not everyone agrees on how to handle the challenge of climate change.
Bill C-474 did not stop the Conservative government from getting rid of dozens of climate research scientist positions, from getting rid of the Canadian census form, or from subsidizing a polluting industry at enormous cost to the taxpayers. As the saying goes, you have to walk the talk. When the House says it is going to do something, it would be good if the general public could actually see something happen.
Unfortunately, at this point, this is not the case. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, a position created by virtue of Bill C-474, states that Canada is not doing what it should to establish real sustainable development practices. It was to respond to this problem that my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi introduced C-481, which in fact does nothing more than give real power to Bill C-474. If Bill C-474 is the talk, Bill C-481 is the walk. It only remains to be seen whether this government will dare to put on its shoes.
There is nothing magical about Bill C-481. In fact, it is really only logical. It would make it possible for the justice minister to draw the attention of the House to any inconsistency between bills that have been passed and the Federal Sustainable Development Act. This way we would have a tool for measuring our commitment to sustainable development, so that we might take tangible steps toward making Canada greener, fairer and more prosperous.
In my view, the principal argument in favour of the bill currently under consideration is the fact that the justice minister already verifies all the bills. Making it possible for him to report any potential inconsistencies with the Federal Sustainable Development Act will not require any additional resources and will make it possible for the bill to be something more than just window dressing.
It must be said that sustainable development covers a great deal. It can be used for almost everything, without much regard for its real meaning. However, if we thought about this a little more, we would see that it is a vision of development that is likely to encourage green, job-creating industries, as well as increased citizen participation in public affairs.
The three pillars of this theory are as follows: a vision of economic justice, a balanced social perspective and, of course, the conservation of nature for future generations. By applying this reasoning to all our legislation, we could make a promise to our children that they too will be able to enjoy a world where there is room for everyone and where there are the resources they need to live.
In the current circumstances, I think it is urgent to improve the Federal Sustainable Development Act, because we believe that it does not have any real teeth. For instance, how is the government meeting its commitments when it gives money to the oil industry, which is already rich? How is this good for the environment? Has any consideration being given to the fact that development of the oil sands artificially inflated the value of the dollar and resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector? Have the communities that live near oil sands developments even been consulted?
Unfortunately, all too often the answer to these many questions is no. The omnibus bills introduced recently by the Conservative government have proven that the government does not listen to anyone and that it is not even living up to its own commitments.
Many measures included in these bills would fail miserably if they were put to the test of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. For instance, people can no longer oppose the installation of a pipeline for environmental reasons unless the pipeline goes directly through their property.
The government is ignoring the concept of the common good and trampling on our communities' ability to mobilize by allowing the democratic process of a vote only once every four years. Just because the government won a majority with 38% of the vote does not make this a democratic country; quite the contrary. Claiming so much power with so little support is appalling enough, but preventing communities from having their say when it really counts is completely unjustifiable from a democratic standpoint.
Since many of the Conservative government's decrees are bad for the economy, the environment and the survival of Canadian democracy, I strongly urge the House to give this country a regulatory tool, a safeguard, that will bring us closer to our goal of sustainable development.
Accordingly, I fully support Bill C-481, which will help Canada to better meet its own commitments and allow us to give our children a society in which they will want to live, thrive and participate actively.
Let us give ourselves the means to be responsible, and we will finally be able to say that we did what was needed to ensure the sustainability of our communities. At the risk of repeating myself, any attempt to limit enforcement powers regarding the environment makes anything that could be said on the matter sound superficial.
We have a serious responsibility to the future. I would like to be able to tell myself that we are doing everything we can to ensure that Canada moves in the direction of sustainable development, which will provide new opportunities that are worthy of a developed economy in the 21st century.
An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act (duty to examine)
Private Members' Business
November 25th, 2013 / 11 a.m.
Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC
moved that Bill C-481, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act (duty to examine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present Bill C-481. Years ago, I joined an increasing number of Canadians who have become aware of the urgent need for action on the environment. It is now absolutely crucial to develop sustainable development policies to address the many challenges of our time.
I also want to pay tribute to our environment critic, the member for Halifax, who works so hard to defend our world and the quality of life of her constituents. She is a role model who inspires me every day. As for me, I was elected in 2011 to make Canada greener, more prosperous and fairer for all.
Some people would say that Bill C-481 does not go far enough. However, I feel it is a step in the right direction. My colleagues on the other side and I should support it. Indeed, it is an amendment to an act that the Conservatives themselves passed unanimously in June 2008.
My bill seeks to ensure that any future acts and regulations introduced by a federal minister comply with the principles of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The Minister of Justice will then report any inconsistencies to the House of Commons, at the earliest possible opportunity. The Department of Justice already has an obligation to examine all bills and regulations before the House to verify compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All that Bill C-481 does is link this process with what has already been created by the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
I would point out there was nothing in the throne speech on sustainable development. However, the idea that human activity can cause serious and lasting damage to our ecosystems is now a key part of policy.
My bill is a reminder that Canadians want sustainable development to be included in the decision-making process of their representatives in the House of Commons. Placing sustainable development at the heart of all federal public policy is the best way to make Canada greener, more prosperous and fairer for all.
What is sustainable development? It means creating policies that meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainable development must also be guided by long-term thinking that takes into account the inseparable nature of the environmental, social and economic impacts of development activities. Unfortunately, we are leaving our children with the worst economic, social and ecological debt in the history of this country. We cannot afford to let this situation continue.
The planet's temperature is already rising. This is an undeniable reality that is hitting Canada hard. Since 1948, the average annual temperature in Canada has risen by 1.3oC, a rate of warming that is higher than in most other parts of the world. Heavy precipitation and flooding have increased in most Canadian cities. Researchers with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy have noted an increased number of heat waves in every major Canadian city as well as more droughts, particularly in the west. There have also been more forest fires. Moreover, the serious lack of water is affecting land productivity, and that will only get worse.
Insurance plans are not adapted to these situations. In Quebec alone, the compensation paid by insurance companies as a result of storms and flooding has increased by 25% since 2001.
Lastly, scientists have documented deteriorating biodiversity conditions in all of the main types of ecosystems in Canada. Biodiversity is a cornerstone of Canadian competitiveness. It is key to continued growth in ecotourism and recreation. Falling behind on the protection of land and wildlife could lead to the disruption of valuable resource sectors like forestry and fisheries.
Our trading partners see Canada as a steward of globally significant resources. Canada’s success as a trading nation depends on continued leadership in meeting international expectations for environmental protection, expectations that are increasingly enshrined in international trade agreements.
Negligence is getting expensive. The effects are being felt across the country, and it will only get worse if we do not act now. For many years, a number of provinces have said repeatedly how important it is that Canada take a leadership role in establishing sustainable development policies. Sustainable development means creating policies that meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. This principle must be extended to all decisions made by the federal government, especially those made in the House.
Informing people and building awareness alone will not make Canada greener. We need leadership. The government and MPs must foster change that stimulates progress and prosperity in our communities.
My bill will give Canada a mechanism that encourages MPs to act in accordance with sustainable development principles. Bill C-481 is one more step in the right direction toward placing these principles at the centre of our decision-making process. By encouraging MPs to develop bills that are in line with the federal sustainable development strategy, Bill C-481 will help them make good decisions and build a greener, more prosperous and more just Canada.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act was the outcome of a private member's bill, Bill C-474, which was passed unanimously in June 2008. In passing the bill, the Government of Canada recognized the importance of making decisions that take environmental, economic and social factors into account. The bill set up a legal framework for the development and implementation of a federal sustainable development strategy.
The purpose of the strategy is to make the decision-making process more transparent in terms of the environment. It is updated every three years with a progress report and public consultations. Within a year of the strategy coming into effect, the main federal departments have to prepare their own sustainable development strategies. These must comply with the guidelines in the federal sustainable development strategy, which has four priority themes.
The first is about addressing climate change now that weather events have become more frequent and severe. We must also improve air quality to combat the growing number of respiratory illnesses.
The second is about maintaining water quality and availability, because even though our bank account is full and oil resources are everywhere, water quality is still the most critical factor for life.
The third is about protecting nature, plants and animals. The fourth is about shrinking the environmental footprint, beginning with government. The goal is to reduce polluting emissions, recycle, and set a good example for the private sector and individuals.
As it stands now, this legislation does not do much, since the current government lacks any political will.
This fall, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's report criticized the government for missing most of its targets. Most of the targets lack clarity and measurability, which makes it difficult to assess progress over the short and long term.
Well thought-out strategies and effective action to implement them are fundamental to both the credibility and the impact of the strategies. Although the Federal Sustainable Development Act is weak and does not have teeth, I think it provides an excellent tool for us to coordinate our massive bureaucracy in order to implement sustainable development policies.
Bill C-481 will help strengthen this act by ensuring that the House of Commons knows whether a bill is in line with the federal sustainable development strategy. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development noted that the efforts to integrate the sustainable development strategy are incomplete. Bill C-481 would fix that.
We want to show Canadians that we take sustainable development into account in our decisions. If Bill C-481 passes, bills that are inconsistent with sustainable development will pay a political price. I hope that members of the House of Commons will make more of an effort to include sustainable development in their bills.
We must not be leaving environmental, economic and social debts for future generations. We must be concerned with the quality of life of our constituents; focus on prevention instead of repression; provide value-added for small businesses by giving them green infrastructure; promote buying local, which stimulates the regional economy and reduces our greenhouse gas emissions; and there are many more examples. Together, we will build a fairer, greener and more prosperous Canada.
In conclusion, I would like to share a quote from Frédéric Back's film The Man Who Planted Trees. This film served as an inspiration to me in developing this bill. Here is an excerpt:
...It is a desert no more. In these [formerly] arid regions...magnificent forests have slowed the winds, retained water and restored life. All this is the result of the quiet perseverance of a single man.
On that note, I urge all members to vote in favour of my bill.
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill S-210, which we will naturally support, along with all the other parties in this House. This essentially administrative bill was presented in the Senate on April 30, 2010, and it would amend two acts: the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. It would ensure that when the environment commissioner provides a report on the progress of sustainable development, this report is tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate. That is the first amendment.
The second amendment would give the environment commissioner more latitude to decide when it is necessary to table reports on sustainable development. The Federal Sustainable Development Act, which is in its infant stages, since it was just recently passed, was the result of a bill introduced by one of our former colleagues, John Godfrey. He thought it was very important for Canada, and more specifically the federal government, to have a sustainable development strategy. I will come back to this shortly.
Mr. Godfrey worked with all of the parties to ensure that Bill C-474 would be passed. The Bloc Québécois did not like the bill in its original form because it proposed only a national sustainable development strategy. In addition, this bill interfered significantly in the provinces' areas of jurisdiction, such as agriculture and recycling. It was a national, coast-to-coast strategy that would not have produced results at the end of the day.
Following talks, the parties have decided that it is important for Canada to have a federal sustainable development strategy that falls within its own areas of jurisdiction. Thus, Canada will be able to meet the Rio targets and truly put in place a sustainable development plan using resources that already exist in its various departments. This strategy would also aim to increase greening of public services and provide Canada with the means to reach its international environmental goals.
That is how Bill S-210 was introduced. It will ensure that the commissioner has more flexibility in reaching the set targets. We need greater accountability and the environment commissioner must be able to report more frequently. Over the past weeks and months, we have come to realize that the environmental strategy presented by the federal government in order to comply with Bill C-474 contained targets that were vague, weak and insufficient.
Clearly, the government was just paying lip service to the ideas of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting ecosystems and oceanographic resources. We need a transparent sustainable development strategy with clear goals. However, that is what was missing from the strategy that has been developed.
The commissioner will be responsible for assessing whether the government has met those targets. The targets are inadequate, so, naturally, the commissioner will have a hard time in the coming years figuring out whether Canada is keeping the promises made to Parliament.
We need more transparency, more accountability and greater responsibility to ensure that the government is reaching its international targets. That is almost certainly what Parliament has been lacking these past 10 or 14 years. The government was unable to achieve its environmental targets at the international level because there was no oversight and no accountability with respect to Canada's commitments.
The best example of this is the fight against climate change. Since 1997, successive governments have introduced greenhouse gas reduction plans that were supposed to be in line with Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets. But we are a long way from reaching those targets.
In 1997, Canada promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Where do we stand now? Our greenhouse gas emissions have risen by more than 25%.
Why have we failed to reach our targets? One of the main reasons is that there have been no progress reports. There has been no way to determine whether the measures, plans, policies and programs implemented are taking us in the right direction. The government can set greenhouse gas reduction targets, but without the right plans, policies and programs in place, those targets will not be achieved. The environment commissioner needs more power to present more frequent reports. That is one of the goals of this bill.
We have already given the environment commissioner a greater role. A few years ago, the Liberal Party's Bill C-288 gave the environment commissioner more power with respect to accountability for reduction targets.
We support this bill. We believe that the environment commissioner must play a greater role in efforts to reach the targets set by Canada and the federal government by focusing on three basic objectives: transparency, accountability and responsibility.
Royal Recommendation--Bill C-568
Points of Order
November 5th, 2010 / 10 a.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census).
Without commenting on the merits of the bill, it is my submission that the bill alters the conditions and qualifications for appropriations for Statistics Canada. The bill therefore requires a royal recommendation under Standing Order 79.
The Statistics Act sets out the duties and functions of Statistics Canada and the Chief Statistician of Canada. While this mandate is broad with respect to statistical matters, much of the activities are discretionary in nature and the act prescribes very few statutory obligations.
In fact, there are only two specific surveys or censuses required by the Statistics Act, a census of population as required by subsection 19(1), and a census of agriculture as required by section 20.
Further, the act provides few requirements for these censuses. The only requirement is set out in subsection 19(2) which requires the census of population to include the population counts for each electoral district.
What is more, all of the activities contemplated by the Statistics Act are under the direction of either the minister or the Governor in Council.
For example, under subsection 21(1), the Governor in Council is authorized to prescribe the questions to be asked in the census of population or agriculture. Section 22 of the act states that the Chief Statistician shall collect and compile statistics under the direction of the minister.
Section 8 of the act states that the minister may, by order, authorize a voluntary survey. Section 7 of the act states that:
The Minister may, by order, prescribe such rules, instructions, schedules and forms as the Minister deems requisite for conducting the work and business of Statistics Canada, the collecting, compiling and publishing of statistics and other information and the taking of any census authorized by this Act.
To sum up, the Statistics Act requires two censuses and says next to nothing about the nature of the questions to be asked in these censuses. The Governor in Council establishes the questions and the minister is responsible for the taking of the census.
I now turn to clause 1 of Bill C-568, which would amend the Statistics Act to provide two new requirements.
First, each population census must include a long form census questionnaire distributed to at least 20% of all households, or to whatever percentage the Chief Statistician has determined to be appropriate.
Second, the long form census questionnaire must conform substantially, in length and substantive scope, to the questions in the 1971 census.
This is a new obligation. While there has always been statutory authority to include a long form census, it has always been discretionary on the part of the Governor in Council. This is therefore a new obligation that alters the conditions and qualifications for the mandate of Statistics Canada.
This new obligation also requires expenditures. For example, Statistics Canada estimates that a long form census in 2011 would cost a minimum of $50 million. Under the current legal framework, the government has the discretion to decide whether or not to spend this $50 million. Under Bill C-568, the government would be obliged to appropriate the necessary funds to carry out its legal duties.
My point is not simply that Bill C-568 would require the expenditure of funds, but also that it does so in a way that alters the conditions and qualifications of Statistics Canada's existing mandate.
On page 834 of the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states:
A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown's financial initiative.
On February 11, 2008, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-474, Federal Sustainable Development Act, that:
...clause 13...would impose additional functions on the commissioner that are substantially different from those foreseen in the current mandate. In the Chair's view, clause 13 thus alters the conditions set out in the original bill to which a royal recommendation was attached.
Other precedents clearly establish that a change in purpose requiring new expenditures must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
On October 20, 2006, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-286, the witness protection bill, that:
...the bill proposes to carry out an entirely new function. As a new function, such an activity is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation. As the House knows, funds are approved by Parliament only for purposes covered by the accompanying royal recommendation, as explicitly stated in Standing Order 79(1). New functions or activities must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.
On November 8, 2006, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-279, the DNA identification bill, that:
...clause 2 amends the purpose clause of the DNA Identification Act to include the identifying of missing persons as one of the purposes for maintaining the data bank...the addition of this new purpose to the act would require significant new expenditures by the government.
I recognize that not all changes to an organization's mandate will always require a royal recommendation and that departments have the ability to reallocate funds in order to meet their legislative requirements.
As you recently noted, Mr. Speaker, on October 26, 2010, in your ruling on Bill C-300:
Bill C-300 does require the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to examine bona fide complaints concerning possible contraventions of the guidelines to be established under clause 5, but the bill is silent with respect to the manner in which such examinations are to be conducted. The respective ministers appear to have entire discretion in this regard.
In contrast, Bill C-568 removes all discretion from the minister and Governor in Council in deciding whether to include a long form census questionnaire with each census.
For this reason, Bill C-568 would add a new statutory obligation to the Statistics Act and would alter the mandate of Statistics Canada, thereby changing the conditions and qualifications of the royal recommendation that accompanied that act.
I submit, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that the bill requires a royal recommendation.
Bill C-300—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
October 26th, 2010 / 3 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Monday, September 20, 2010, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the need for a royal recommendation to accompany Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, standing in the name of the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for having drawn this matter to the attention of the House as well as the hon. members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Mississauga South and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation for their comments.
In raising this issue, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that Bill C-300 established a new, quasi-judicial function regarding Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities in developing countries to be exercised by the ministers of foreign affairs and international trade. He also contended that the framework required to implement the provisions of the bill was not foreseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and that considerable expense would be required to put it in place. In supporting this point, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation noted that during 2009 the World Bank had expended $3.3 million conducting what he described as “parallel investigations” to those he believed would be required by Bill C-300.
The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons noted that in other cases, the Speaker had found that bills mandating an expansion of the functions of an existing department or agency required a royal recommendation. He referred in that regard to the ruling concerning Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and rate setting) Debates, June 13, 2005, pages 6990-1, as well as to the ruling concerning Bill C-474, National Sustainable Development Act, Debates, February 11, 2008, but I will not cite the pages.
It is in that context that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons maintained that the terms and conditions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act were therefore being altered by Bill C-300 and that funds would need to be appropriated to carry out the new function imposed by the bill. He concluded that for these reasons, a royal recommendation would be required for Bill C-300.
In his remarks, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood asserted that the bill had been carefully drafted with a view to avoiding any requirement for a royal recommendation. He acknowledged that some reorganization of existing resources would be necessary, but that new resources would not be required.
The Chair takes very seriously the need to respect the requirements for a recommendation of the Crown to accompany any legislation requiring new expenditures. The Chair has therefore examined with care the details of Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, as well as the precedents enumerated by the parliamentary secretary.
The case of Bill C-280, cited by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, involved the creation of a new employment insurance account outside the consolidated revenue fund. Bill C-474, to which he also referred, assigned new functions to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, including the assessing of provincial performance in the meeting of sustainable development goals, which was clearly a significant expansion of the existing mandate.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was correct in saying that both Bill C-280 and Bill C-474 required a royal recommendation. In the first instance, the bill created an employment insurance account outside the consolidated revenue fund as well as several other proposals. These included lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant; setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks of the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings; reducing the qualifying period before receiving benefits; and removing the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate. From a mere listing of the measures in the bill, one must clearly conclude that the bill had the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the consolidated revenue fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.
As for Bill C-474, it sought among other things, to modify the mandate of a new independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Specifically, it sought to develop “a national sustainability monitoring system to assess...the state of the Canadian environment, nationally and by province” as well as “...the national and provincial performance in meeting each sustainable development goal...” listed in the bill. There is no doubt that extending the commissioner’s mandate into the provincial arena was clearly a significant expansion of the existing mandate.
Thus, we are in agreement on the issues raised by these two bills, however, it seems to me that the situation presented by Bill C-300, the case now before the House, is not analogous to the circumstances just described.
Bill C-300 does require the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to examine bona fide complaints concerning possible contraventions of the guidelines to be established under clause 5, but the bill is silent with respect to the manner in which such examinations are to be conducted. The respective ministers appear to have entire discretion in this regard. Furthermore, the Chair is of the view that the examination of such complaints is not a departure from or expansion of the current ministerial mandate under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act to carry out such examinations. Bill C-300 may put forth more stringent requirements, but it does not expand the mandate per se. Hence, a parallel cannot be made to Bill C-474.
In addition, Bill C-300 does not actually call for the establishment of the quasi-judicial process referred to in testimony by departmental officials. Nor does it require that investigations be carried out in other jurisdictions. It may be that a reorganization of resources or even additional funds would be required, however, it appears these would be operational in nature. In short, there is little ground for comparison of Bill C-300 with Bill C-280 and Bill C-474.
Consequently, from a strictly procedural point of view, the Chair cannot find that Bill C-300 requires the expenditure of public funds for a new and distinct purpose. I therefore rule that there is no requirement that the bill be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The House may continue to consider it in accordance with the rules governing private members' business.
I thank hon. members for their attention.
Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Private Members' Business
September 20th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
I submit that the bill contains provisions which would require new spending for purposes not currently authorized in statute and therefore should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
Bill C-300 would add new functions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by requiring the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to establish a new, quasi-judicial function regarding Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities in developing countries. Currently, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act does not authorize spending for that new function.
The government did not raise a point of order on the bill prior to second reading. However, during committee consideration of the bill, the issue of new spending was raised, and I now want to bring that to your attention. On December 1, 2009 officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated in committee:
The mechanism itself would require...the set-up of a whole new procedural framework that is not currently in existence within DFAIT and is not foreseen in the DFAIT Act.
Let me explain why this would require new spending. Clause 9 of the bill would amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act to compel the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to ensure that mining, oil and gas activities by Canadian corporations in developing countries are consistent with the guidelines in clause 5 of the bill.
Clause 4 of the bill sets out a formal complaints process to require the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to receive complaints and conduct investigations on whether the guidelines have been contravened.
In a case where the ministers determine that activities contravene the guidelines, the ministers would be required to notify the president of the Export Development Corporation and the chair of the CPP Investment Board that a Canadian corporation's mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines.
In such a case, the EDC would not be able to enter into, continue or renew a transaction with a Canadian corporation found to have contravened the guidelines and the CPP Investment Board would have to ensure that assets are not invested in any corporations that have been found to be in contravention of the guidelines.
Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by adding a new quasi-judicial function. The need for a royal recommendation for a new function is explained on page 834 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. It states:
A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.
On June 13, 2005 the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, stating:
Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose--
On February 11, 2008, with respect to a new role or function for an existing organization or program, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-474, the National Sustainable Development Act, stating:
Bill C-474 also proposes a new mandate for the commissioner.
However, clause 13 of Bill C-474 would modify the mandate of this new independent commissioner to require, namely, the development of “a national sustainability monitoring system...The clause 13 requirements would impose additional functions on the commissioner that are substantially different from those foreseen in the current mandate. In the Chair's view, clause 13 thus alters the conditions set out in the original bill to which a royal recommendation was attached.
I have explained how the new function proposed in Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions of the original royal recommendation for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.
In keeping with the precedents I have mentioned, I therefore submit that Bill C-300 requires a royal recommendation.
Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business
June 15th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 6, 2010, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, standing in the name of the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona for her comments.
In raising his point of order, the parliamentary secretary set out two grounds on which he considered Bill C-469 to infringe the financial prerogative of the Crown. First, he argued that the bill creates potential new legal liabilities for the government because it allows the Federal Court to order that the government pay for the restoration or rehabilitation required by environmental harm or for the protection or enhancement of the environment generally. He pointed out that not only procedural authorities but also a number of previous Speakers' rulings make it quite clear that the imposing of liabilities on the Crown requires a royal recommendation.
His second point dealt with the role which the bill assigns to the Auditor General. He noted that clause 26 of the bill would require the Auditor General to review every regulation or government bill in order to determine whether or not they were consistent with the provisions of Bill C-469. This role would, according to the parliamentary secretary, shift the role of the Auditor General from one of simply auditing to that of reviewing policy proposals that have not yet been approved. He regarded this as an inadmissible expansion of the Auditor General's mandate. In support of his view, he noted that, in a ruling given on February 11, 2008, Debates pages 2853-4, concerning Bill C-474, the Federal Sustainable Development Act, an expansion of the role of the environment commissioner to include a national sustainability monitoring system had been found to represent a change of mandate that required a royal recommendation.
In addressing the point of order, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona argued that the bill does not create a new liability for the government, but merely provides legal standing for actions to be brought should the government fail to assert its existing jurisdiction and legislated powers. She also drew the attention of the House to the fact that statutory authority to make payments exists under the provisions of the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, should the government fail to carry out its duties.
With respect to the mandate of the Auditor General, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona pointed out that the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development falls under the authority of the Auditor General. She indicated that a broad mandate is given to the commissioner and that, in her view, none of the requirements of Bill C-469 went beyond the authority already provided to the commissioner by the Auditor General Act. She also noted that any increased expenditure would be operational in nature and would not involve a new activity or function.
The Chair has examined Bill C-469 carefully, as well as the authorities and precedents cited. There are essentially two points which the Chair is asked to address: first, does the bill authorize new expenditures of public funds by creating new or contingent liabilities for the Crown and, secondly, does the bill alter the role of the Auditor General by expanding her mandate beyond that currently provided for in the Auditor General Act.
In his remarks, the parliamentary secretary cited two cases in which an extension of Crown liability was ruled to require a royal recommendation. In one case, concerning the Farm Improvement Loans Act, it was proposed to raise the loan ceiling from $25,000 to $40,000. In the other case, a bill sought to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in a way which would have increased the government's liability under the Canada Student Loans Act. In both of these cases, the government, as guarantor of the respective loans, would have been exposed to increased liability.
While the requirement for a royal recommendation in cases concerning loan limits and loan guarantees is well established, not all types of liability are subject to the same requirement. It is important in this context to distinguish between a liability for new payments under an existing program and a liability arising by reason of a court judgment rendered against the Crown. The rulings to which the parliamentary secretary has referred relate to a liability of the first kind. Erskine May, 23rd edition, at page 888 states that no recommendation is required from the Crown where: “—such a liability arises as an incidental consequence of a proposal to apply or modify the general law.”
The parliamentary secretary has argued that new liabilities are created by Bill C-469. The Chair is not convinced of this. The bill provides a new means by which the Crown can be proceeded against where it has failed to meet its legal obligations. This is simply a new means of being called to account, not to a creation of a new responsibility for which additional expenditures of public funds will be required.
The Chair is also of the view that creating a new basis for legal actions against the Crown does not extend the Crown's liability as it currently exists under the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. In the absence of an expansion of a liability for the new payments under an existing program, there does not appear to be a basis for the claim that the objects and purposes of that act are being extended to where an authorization is being given to make new expenditures of public funds.
The Chair would now like to turn to the question of whether or not Bill C-469 seeks to expand the mandate of the Auditor General.
As the member for Edmonton—Strathcona pointed out, the Office of the Auditor General includes the position of Commissioner of the Environment, who reports to Parliament through the Auditor General. The Commissioner is given a broad mandate with respect to the content of that office’s reports, as set out in paragraph 23(2) of the Act, which reads, in part:
The Commissioner shall, on behalf of the Auditor General, report annually to the House of Commons concerning anything that the Commissioner considers should be brought to the attention of the House in relation to environmental and other aspects of sustainable development—
The provisions of Bill C-469 concerning the Auditor General are limited to the examination of federal bills and regulations. Here again, it does not appear that the bill broadens the mandate of the commissioner, nor does it require the commissioner to undertake any work not already within his purview.
In conclusion, the Chair is unable to find any authorization for a new expenditure of public funds in Bill C-469, nor does the bill appear to assign any function to the Office of the Auditor General that goes beyond the existing mandate of that office. I therefore rule that Bill C-469 does not infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown and so does not require a royal recommendation.
I once again would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this matter, as well as the member for Edmonton—Strathcona for her comments.
I thank honourable members for their attention.
Bill C-469--Royal Recommendation Requirement
Points of Order
June 10th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, I wish to reply to the arguments made May 6, 2010 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons regarding my private member's bill, Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.
The parliamentary secretary argued that the bill requires a royal recommendation because it would require new spending on the following basis: one, that part 2 authorizes environmental protection actions against the government by enabling Canadians to seek recourse in the Federal Court to protect the environment in relation to any action or inaction by the government which has resulted in significant harm; and two, that part 4 authorizes the Auditor General to review new regulations and bills to ensure consistency with Bill C-469 and to report any inconsistencies to the House of Commons.
I wish first to respond to the argument put forth that part 2, clause 19 of the bill, “would create potential legal liabilities for the government by adding the power to the Federal Court to order the government to pay for the restoration or rehabilitation of the part of the environment, and the power to order the government to pay for the enhancement or protection of the environment generally” and the argument that “clause 19 would result in a potential increase in the government's legal liability since payments resulting from decisions of the Federal Court would be made from the consolidated revenue fund”.
First, Bill C-469 merely establishes standing to bring an environmental protection action against the government. The enactment of this provision would create no immediate or automatic liability on the federal government. In point of fact the overall intent of the law is to encourage action by the federal government to assert its existing jurisdiction and legislated powers to protect the environment in the interests of current and future generations of Canadians.
The bill's purpose is to ensure greater transparency and participation in environmental decision making. The intent is to make the government accountable for the actions it takes or fails to take to protect the environment in the interests of Canadians.
If those broad rights and powers are asserted, then no action would likely be precipitated. Further, if the federal government's powers to protect the environment are exercised with due diligence, then a successful court action against the crown is unlikely. As a consequence, no new liability would arise.
In making his case, the parliamentary secretary referred to, for example, the Senate Speaker's ruling on May 5, 2009, at pages 739 to 740 of the Senate Debates, that Bill S-219, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, required a royal recommendation because it would increase the Crown's liability under the Canada Student Loans Act by expanding the range of conditions under which government would have to make good its guarantee of loans under that act.
However, the Senate Speaker in his ruling then went on to quote from the 23rd edition of Erskine May to distinguish those cases that would and would not require a royal recommendation:
While page 888 does state that the Royal Recommendation may not be required if the “liability arises as an incidental consequence of a proposal to apply or modify the general law,” this does not save Bill S-219, since the changes proposed to the student loans regime are not merely incidental to the bill, but its primary purpose.
Based on this analysis, it is submitted, contrary to what the parliamentary secretary has asserted, Bill C-469, which merely provides standing to a defined class of potential litigants to consider seeking a court order would not require royal recommendation. No immediate spending or liability arises from part 2. Any potential liability would arise only as an incidental consequence of an action actually being filed proving failure by the government to fulfill its duties as trustee of the environment, to enforce an environmental law or for violating the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.
Further, the litigant must provide proof of actual or potential significant harm to even file the action. The imposition of new spending by the government is not at all the primary purpose of the bill. No immediate liability arises with the enactment of the bill and most certainly not as a result of part 2.
It may also be noted that Erskine May, 23rd edition at page 888 clearly provides that “Liability on the Crown or local authorities to pay costs, compensation or damages does not require a money resolution if such a liability arises as an incidental consequence of a proposal to apply or modify the general law”.
It is further specified that in the case of widening the jurisdiction of a court, a money resolution is not required even though the proposal may have the incidental consequence of increasing the costs of administration of justice.
The parliamentary secretary referred to the Speaker's ruling on June 12, 1973, that Bill S-5, an Act to amend the Farm Improvement Loans Act required a royal recommendation because it proposed substantial additional liabilities on public moneys.
However, this ruling was subsequently considered by the Speaker on February 12, 1998, on page 3766 in considering Bill S-4, an Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, who held that there was already statutory authority under the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act to make the payments that Bill S-4 outlined.
It may be noted that many federal environmental laws, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, already provide that the Crown is bound. According to Erskine May, 21st Edition at page 717, “No further authorization is required for an expenditure covered by an existing statutory authority, including liability to pay damages covered by existing law”.
By way of example, crown agencies such as the Department of Public Works and the Department of Defence have been held by the courts to be liable to pay damages where they have failed to take appropriate actions to comply with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Further, the provisions in Bill C-469, related to proceedings against the federal Crown, are consistent with the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, chapter C-5, section 33. Section 3 clearly provides that the Crown is liable for damages for torts committed by a servant of the Crown.
It may be noted that John Mark Keyes in his article, “When Bills and Amendments Require the Royal Recommendation: A Discussion Paper and Guidelines”, Canadian Parliamentary Review, volume 20, number 4, winter 1997-98 at page 8 cites Erskine May, 21st edition, page 717, on cases were a royal recommendation is not needed as including, “Widening the jurisdiction of a court or creating offences although they may have the effect of increasing the costs of the administration of justice”.
Further, any potential liabilities under part 2 of the bill are highly speculative and that they would be substantial is even more so speculative.
For example, government might first avoid a court action or settle such an action if filed by diligently exercising its powers or duties to undertake an environmental assessment or to complete an action plan for a threatened species within the statutorily prescribed timeline or by passing new regulations, or by a myriad of other measures.
Even if an action under Bill C-469 has its day in court, the court is provided a wide range of remedies, including directing the government to implement measures previously announced and budgeted for, or otherwise prescribed by another law. Thus any court-ordered payments under section 19 of the bill are highly speculative and could only occur after the government has made decisions to not avoid or remedy the problem by any other means.
The Speaker similarly rejected such speculation in multiple rulings on September 27, 2006, page 3314; on February 8, 2007, page 6548; and again on February 14, 2007, page 6816. The Speaker found that Bill C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act did not require a royal recommendation.
The parliamentary secretary's second argument was based on part 4 of the bill. Section 26 requires the Auditor General to examine proposed regulations and bills for consistency with Bill C-469 and to report any inconsistency to the House. It was the parliamentary secretary's assertion that this role differs significantly from the current duties of the Auditor General under section 5 of the Auditor General Act and would require new government spending.
This section requires the Auditor General, in accordance with such regulations as the governor in council may choose to make, to review any new regulations or bills to ensure consistency with the purposes and provisions of Bill C-469, and to report such findings to the House of Commons.
Let us first consider the mandate of the Auditor General as prescribed in the Auditor General Act. The act also establishes the Office of the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development. Section 21.1 prescribes a broad mandate to the commissioner to provide sustainable development monitoring and reporting including on matters reiterated in the preamble of Bill C-469, inclusive of integrating environment and the economy, protecting ecosystems, and respect for the health of Canadians and the needs of future generations.
Section 23 of that act requires the commissioner to make examinations and inquiries considered necessary to monitor the extent to which specified departments have contributed to meeting sustainable development targets and report to the House actions including exercising the authority of the governor in council. Part of that authority includes the promulgation of regulations, and review and authorization of proposed laws.
The Auditor General Act also requires that the commissioner, on behalf of the Auditor General, report annually to the House of Commons on the progress of the federal government in implementing the federal sustainable development strategy and meeting its targets, which would include consideration of new statutes and regulations.
Thus, Bill C-469 would not create a substantially new or radically different mandate than that already prescribed for the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Development within the Office of the Auditor General, as provided in the Auditor General Act.
I further submit that section 26 of Bill C-469 is very similar to that considered in the Speaker's ruling on February 8, 2007, at page 6548 on Bill C-288, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. The Speaker in that instance held that the bill did not require a royal recommendation as the new responsibilities placed on the national round table on the environment and the economy by that bill did not meet the test, to quote the Speaker's words, of “whether some entirely new activity or function is being proposed which radically diverges from the activities already authorized in existing legislation”.
It may be noted that in the same ruling, the Speaker also provided, “Now it might be argued that this would increase the workload of the national round table, but even if this were so, an increase to its budget would be sought through existing appropriation arrangements”.
As the Speaker has clearly ruled, it is important to distinguish between an effect of a bill potentially increasing the workload of a department or agency and an effect of establishing distinctly new activity or function. It is my humble submission that the same logic and same conclusion would apply to part 4 of Bill C-469 regarding the role specified for the Office of the Auditor General.
The parliamentary secretary referred to the Speaker's February 11, 2008, ruling on Bill C-474, Federal Sustainable Development Act; however, in that case, Bill C-474, at first reading, originally proposed repealing the sections in the Auditor General Act concerning the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and creating a new independent commissioner appointed by the governor in council who would not only assess federal progress on sustainable development but also provincial progress.
At committee stage, Bill C-474 was amended to rely on the existing position of the commissioner established under the Auditor General Act and to add the monitoring and reporting duties on federal progress toward sustainable development granted to the commissioner under that act. The Speaker on June 10, 2008, at page 6819, held that the amended bill no longer needed a royal recommendation. It is that amended Bill C-474 that is analogous to Bill C-469.
Finally, in closing, as a private member's bill can proceed through second reading and committee stage regardless of whether it requires a royal recommendation, in whole or in part, recognizing it may potentially be amended in committee or at report stage, a ruling from the Speaker would be most welcomed in advance of the vote at second reading and referral to the committee. This will inform the committee members whether any amendments may be necessary to be considered to avoid any potential need for a royal recommendation and thus maintain the possibility of a third reading vote.
Private Member's Bill C-309
Points of Order
May 14th, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.
Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, on February 25, 2009, you made a statement with respect to the management of private members' business. In particular, you raised concerns about five bills which, in your view, “appear to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown”.
One of the bills you mentioned was Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario. I would note that in the last Parliament, the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming brought forward the same bill as Bill C-499, which the Speaker on June 10, 2008, noted appeared “to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown”.
Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that the bill must be accompanied by a royal recommendation because it would require new spending. Bill C-309 would create a new agency of government and provide for the appointment of personnel. Clause 8 of Bill C-309 establishes the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario as a separate and distinct agency of the Government of Canada.
The requirement of a royal recommendation for organizational changes such as establishing a new agency is referred to in the Speaker's ruling of July 11, 1988, on two motions to amend Bill C-93, An Act for the preservation and enhancement of multiculturalism in Canada. The Speaker said that to establish a separate department of government “undoubtedly would cause a significant charge upon the federal treasury in order for the new department to function on a daily basis”.
When an almost identical bill was introduced in the first session of the 38th Parliament as Bill C-9, An Act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, it was accompanied by a royal recommendation.
The second reason Bill C-309 would require a royal recommendation is that it provides for the appointment of personnel. There are numerous precedents indicating that appointments must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. For example, on February 25, 2005, the Acting Speaker ruled that Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence required a royal recommendation because it provided for the appointment of 13 new commissioners to the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. The parent act specified that all commissioners were to receive remuneration.
Clauses 4 and 9 of Bill C-309 provide for the establishment of advisory committees in the appointment of a president of the agency, positions that do not currently exist. Furthermore, the clauses explicitly state that the remuneration of the appointees shall be fixed by the Governor in Council. Provisions for salaries to be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund clearly impose a charge on the public treasury. I submit that clauses 4 and 9 would therefore require a royal recommendation.
Clause 13 of Bill C-309 would also require the appointment of personnel, in this case, the officers and employees necessary for the proper conduct of the new agency. Although clause 13 does not specifically provide for the remuneration of these employees, the Speaker ruled on February 11, 2008 with respect to Bill C-474, the Federal Sustainable Development Act:
Section 23 of the Interpretation Act makes it clear that the power to appoint includes the power to pay. As the provision in Bill C-474 is such that the governor in council could choose to pay a salary to these representatives, this involves an appropriation of a part of the public revenue and should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.
These precedents apply to Bill C-309. The bill would create new spending and therefore requires a royal recommendation.
Motions in Amendment
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
Pursuant to order adopted earlier today, Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 are deemed adopted, Bill C-474, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments and deemed read a third time and passed.
(Motions Nos. 1 to 4 agreed to, bill, as amended, concurred in at report stage with further amendments, read the third time and passed)
It being 2:07 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:07 p.m.)
Motions in Amendment
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.
Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in what appears to be the final round of debate on Bill C-474, the National Sustainable Development Act.
This bill was introduced by the hon. member for Don Valley West. I want to add my best wishes to him as he leaves this place and goes on to new challenges. It is great that he is able to leave the House of Commons on this note, where there is all party agreement to support this important piece of legislation. It is a good way to end his career in the House of Commons.
I want to make it clear that New Democrats support this legislation. We supported the decision only minutes ago to ensure that the bill gets to the Senate after the finish of the debate today. It is very important to move this bill forward.
When we talk about sustainable development, I cannot hear that term without thinking of a friend and colleague, a former member of the B.C. legislative assembly, the former member for Burnaby-Willingdon and the former B.C. environment minister, Joan Sawicki.
Joan Sawicki is someone who has a clear vision of sustainable development for Canada. She has worked tirelessly and continually to educate Canadians and political leaders on the importance of inventing the principles of sustainable development and environmental protection in all we do as governments and as a society. I want to thank Joan Sawicki for raising my consciousness on this issue and for helping get this kind of commitment on the political agenda here in Canada.
I also want to note that the bill before us today is very similar to Bill C-437, which was tabled by my NDP colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster back on May 1, 2007. It seems that one way or another this legislation was going to be before the House. That shows the importance of it and the dedication from all corners of the House to see this dealt with.
The member for Burnaby—New Westminster acted quickly on the suggestions of the Suzuki Foundation when they were originally put forward. He also engaged a process of community consultation with the people of Burnaby and New Westminster before tabling his version of the bill. I know that he had looked forward to the opportunity to have that legislation discussed in the House, but as I said, we are pleased that the member for Don Valley West, who had a higher priority on the private members' list, was able to get it before the House and through the process and before us today.
At the time that my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster tabled his legislation, which is very similar to this bill, he noted that Canada was 28th of 30 countries in terms of environmental performance and that we were the eighth largest producer of carbon dioxide. That was a record that needed to be addressed. This legislation will go some way to dealing with some of those issues.
The legislation before us was developed by the Suzuki Foundation as part of its report, “Sustainability within a Generation”. In that report it noted that the countries that are ranked highest in the OECD in terms of progress on environmental issues have sustainable development strategies in place. Canada was one of the countries that did not have such a strategy in place, along with Belgium, Spain and the United States.
Canada has committed to such a strategy at many international forums, including the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the 1997 Earth Summit+5 in New York, and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. Finally, we are debating legislation that would ensure that this issue remains planted firmly on the agenda of our government here in Canada.
Sadly, over the years, Canada missed the mark on some of the key best practices with regard to sustainable development, best practices such as comprehensive goals and targets. Canada was often criticized for having fragmented goals across many sectors. On the other hand, Sweden had 16 legislated environmental quality objectives and 71 measurable targets with short, medium and long term timelines. It is a very different way of looking at the idea of comprehensive goals and targets.
Another key best practice is progressive monitoring and reporting. Canada has some monitoring, but it is not linked to targets specifically. There is no benchmarking of Canada's performance relative to that of other countries. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, monitors 68 environmental indicators and assesses them against quantifiable goals.
Another best practice was environmental governance and leadership. Before the legislation came forward, Canada had no single integrated strategy and no overall government leadership and coordination on the environment.
Other countries, like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom all have central agencies and high level prime minister's office and cabinet committees that coordinate environmental development and implementation of environmental policy.
It is clear that there was lots of room for improvement, lots of room for Canada to catch up with countries to which we often look for ideas, for commitments and to whose standards we hold ourselves, so this legislation is very important in that regard.
In this corner of the House, New Democrats believe that a sustainable development strategy is a complex of important measures. It is like a three-legged stool that needs a number of measures to be successful.
We believe that a cap and trade system is very important to a sustainable development strategy. We believe that institutional changes to implement cap and trade and to promote and enforce the culture of sustainable development in government is also a key component
We also believe that selective green fiscal measures that would cover specific measures is also very important. That is why we are pleased that today we are dealing with one aspect of that which is a crucial piece of an overall sustainable development strategy and will lead us in the right direction.
It is very clear that we must integrate a commitment to sustainable development into all the work of government. It is hard to believe that anyone who reflects on the current situation of our planet would deny the importance of taking this step. I am glad that there is unanimity here in the House on this issue.
My colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster put it this way when he tabled his version of this bill. He said:
It is time that sustainable development be a front-running issue for every ministry and become a part of our political culture.
We believe Bill C-474 would do just that.
We also believe that Bill C-474 complements, in a very positive way, Bill C-377, the Climate Change Accountability Act put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth and the leader of the New Democratic Party.
That bill provides scientifically based medium and long term targets for Canada to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. It identifies specifically the necessary steps to avoid the 2° threshold for catastrophic climate change. The destination of 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and regular benchmarks are identified in the bill of the member for Toronto—Danforth, which has passed the House and hopefully will be considered by the Senate in short order.
This bill, we believe, complements that well because it provides a legal framework for preparing and implementing a national sustainable development strategy that aims at integrating through institutional changes, through comprehensive sustainability goals and measurable targets to achieve sustainable development here in Canada.
We believe this is a very important measure to be taking to complement other measures already taken by the House and passed here in this place.
This is a very important achievement of Parliament. I again thank the member for Don Valley West and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster who have shown great leadership in taking the work of the Suzuki Foundation and ensuring it reached the floor of the House of Commons.
It is important to note that all parties have ensured the passage of this legislation today. Taking this step toward establishing in law a national sustainable development strategy for Canada is crucial and important and is work that we can all be proud of here today.
Motions in Amendment
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 1:45 p.m.
Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to clearly state the Bloc Québécois' position on Bill C-474, not only at the report stage, but now at third reading as well.
I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill, although not without some reservations.
We have talked about this at length. This bill calls for the following: the development and implementation of a national sustainable development strategy; the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators; and the appointment of an independent commissioner of the environment and sustainable development accountable to Parliament. This bill sets specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada and makes consequential amendments to another Act.
Clearly, the purpose of Bill C-474, introduced by the hon. member for Don Valley West, is to develop a sustainable development strategy based on the precautionary principle and to create a position of commissioner of the environment and sustainable development that would be independent of the Office of the Auditor General. In any case, that was the original idea, to create an independent commissioner position. We will see this later. As the hon. member for Don Valley West said earlier, everyone has made some compromises, including the Bloc Québécois. It was not, and is still not, our first choice, far from it, but we agree with the bill on the whole.
The bill also provides for the creation of an advisory council on sustainable development tasked with advising the federal government on the national sustainable development strategy that will be developed.
Although the Bloc Québécois supported Bill C-474 in principle, it still felt that the bill needed a number of improvements. Indeed, in its first incarnation, the bill had some serious flaws in terms of respect for Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction.
In fact, as originally drafted, the bill enabled the federal government to unilaterally set Canada-wide targets in many areas for which the Government of Quebec has responsibility, including the rate of recycling, use of agricultural land and urban development. These provisions were unacceptable to Quebec, and the Bloc Québécois said as much. The Bloc Québécois always defends the interests of Quebec and the Government of Quebec, so we obviously had to oppose these amendments.
That did not prevent us from supporting the principle of a federal sustainable development strategy. However, from the outset, that strategy should have applied only to areas of federal jurisdiction and the actions of federal institutions. Consequently, as usual, the Bloc Québécois worked constructively to correct the deficiencies in Bill C-474.
We proposed an approach based on cooperation between the federal government, Quebec and the provinces, whereby all the governments could adjust their policies so as not to interfere with each other. Most importantly, we proposed that the federal government absolutely respect Quebec's jurisdictions.
Too often, the federal government interferes in Quebec's jurisdictions. It constantly creates federal initiatives that not only duplicate what Quebec is already doing, but sometimes negate the effectiveness of Quebec's own initiatives. The bill reflected this “Ottawa knows best” attitude.
Fortunately, the member for Don Valley West had an open mind and very early on adopted a cooperative attitude that led to improvements to the bill.
Still, it would be wrong to say that the bill is perfect. The Bloc Québécois feels that it could have been improved further, especially as regards the actions of the departments.
Specifically, the Bloc Québécois feels that the strategies developed by the various departments should have included a requirement to conduct an environmental assessment of policy, plan and program proposals. Currently, only the cabinet directive on the environmental assessment of policy, plan and program proposals requires that departments conduct such assessments, and this requirement is too often ignored.
Moreover, this was among the findings in the report the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled in March 2008. I had prepared some lengthy quotes, but suffice it to say that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development confirmed both that there is a lack of political will and that the directive is unevenly applied.
The Bloc Québécois wished to create a mandatory legal obligation to fix the problem.
As for the other problems with the bill in its original form, the vast majority of them have been corrected. The bill now applies only to the federal government, its departments and institutions. As well, it is more precise and respectful in its terminology, speaking of aboriginal peoples instead of restricting consultations to first nations alone.
Unfortunately, the bill was gutted in committee: the Commissioner of the Environment, who was supposed to be independent and subject to the same conditions as the Auditor General, who is appointed under the Auditor General Act, will not be. He will remain part of the Auditor General's Office.
The Bloc Québécois is disappointed with this outcome. We argued strongly in favour of the independence of the Commissioner of the Environment, both from the government as well as from the Office of the Auditor General, to which he now reports.
Again, this position is much too important not to be granted the same status as the position of Auditor General. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development must be able to carry out audits, conduct reviews and make recommendations objectively, in the same way as the Commissioner of Official Languages, and cannot simply examine the department's financial statements and look at whether it is following procedures. The commissioner must be able to require real action to protect the environment.
The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-474. The federal government must adopt a sustainable development strategy in order to limit its actions and the actions of its departments and agencies. The Bloc Québécois realizes, however, that a lot remains to be done to ensure that the environment is truly respected. This includes making the position of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development truly independent.
The national sustainable development strategy must include some standards. It should also include implementation strategies for meeting all of the targets. These include caps on emissions, by sector and region, that are consistent with the targets; economic instruments; and an emission trading system with a declining cap.
The strategy has a number of goals, including the one in clause 5(2)(d), which says, “Canada should become globally renowned for its leadership in conserving, protecting and restoring the natural beauty of the nation and the health and diversity of its ecosystems, parks and wilderness areas.”
The Forest Stewardship Council is an organization that certifies forest management. If I may, I would like to say a few words about how we need to consider whether, in addition to the measures in clauses 8 through 11 of the bill, this national development strategy should call on the government to set an example by using only FSC-certified paper.
As I just said, the FSC is an organization that certifies forest management. FSC certification recognizes that forest owners are managing the resource responsibly. They do not clearcut; they reforest and they respect biodiversity within the forest. Certification shows that FSC members have conducted a detailed evaluation.
FSC-certified paper is paper made from fibre from a certified forest. That is the kind of paper we in Parliament, in government, should commit to using, thereby providing a concrete example of sustainable development.
In closing, I would like to congratulate the sponsor of the bill, the member for Don Valley West, and wish him a happy retirement. He has earned the right to say “Mission accomplished.”
Motions in Amendment
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 1:40 p.m.
John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for his kind remarks and his friendship over the years, which will continue even after I leave this place.
I would like to express my gratitude to all the parties in the House for their support and cooperation in bringing Bill C-474, the federal sustainable development bill, to this stage and providing very helpful suggestions for its amendment.
I would also like to acknowledge those who have contributed to the drafting and revision of Bill C-474. The bill reflects, to a large degree, the work of the David Suzuki Foundation with input from the Natural Step Canada group. It was developed and amended through extensive consultation with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
The person who has worked harder on this bill than anyone, who has negotiated with all the parties and legislative council and environmental groups, is one of our own parliamentary interns, Delaney Greig, for whom I predict a great future. She was ably assisted by my legislative assistant, Bo Romaguer.
The original reason I chose to put forward Bill C-474 was a universal dissatisfaction with the existing departmental sustainable development strategies process. The system of departmental reports has received criticism from both Conservative and Liberal ministers of the environment, from former commissioners of the environment and sustainable development and from the green ribbon panel that was established last year to review sustainable development strategies process.
Specifically, there has been broad recognition of the need for greater accountability in the sustainable development strategy process and for a coherent, overarching federal strategy developed at the heart of the government.
These are exactly the changes made under the federal sustainable development bill.
Bill C-474 calls for the development of a federal sustainable development strategy containing goals and targets developed by the Minister of the Environment with cabinet oversight. The federal strategy will be examined by Parliament, an advisory council and the commissioner prior to its coming into force. A progress review will occur every three years through a report to Parliament and a corresponding assessment report from the commissioner. Further, departmental sustainable development strategies will be required to comply with and contribute to the federal strategy and will also be assessed.
Moving through committee, a number of amendments have been made to Bill C-474 to eliminate the need for a royal recommendation, as the Speaker has earlier recognized, and to draw in features that reflect the interests of all the parties represented here today.
As the government was contemplating changes to the sustainable development strategy process, it considered the route laid out in Bill C-474. Bringing together our thinking and theirs, we have amended Bill C-474 to satisfy all four parties. We have all had to put a little water in our wine.
Working on Bill C-474 has been a constructive and collaborative experience. The bill before us in the House today is a tribute to the way in which parties can work together in this place, in committee, in a minority Parliament, where committees are not always so collegial.
In particular, recognition is due to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, who has shown leadership by bringing forward constructive amendments and building support for Bill C-474 among his colleagues, in committee and in the House. I also thank him for his very kind words about my retirement.
I also want to acknowledge the support of the members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP.
Given the atmosphere of cooperation around our efforts to improve sustainable development planning in the federal government, we look forward to ending debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-474 today. Although this will lack the theatrics of a vote, I have elected to request that the House adopt today Bill C-474 with the required technical amendments that have been moved so that it may progress to the Senate before we adjourn for the summer.
I must express to all members my appreciation for their assistance in enabling this bill to progress to this point and, if it is the will of the chamber, sending it on to the Senate. Bill C-474 will make sustainable development a priority at the heart of Canada's government for our future generations. I am honoured to have been able to shepherd this legislation through the House of Commons as my last act as a member of Parliament.
It is in the spirit of cooperation which has characterized the debate on this bill, and having consulted with the government and opposition parties, I would like to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, at the end of today's debate on Bill C-474, standing in my name on the Order Paper, all report stage motions be deemed adopted; the Bill be deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments; and be deemed read a third time and passed.
Motions in Amendment
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 1:30 p.m.
Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the government's report stage amendments to Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act.
This motion is to correct the difference between the English and the French versions in clause 3. The discrepancy is that the English version says that the federal sustainable development strategy will make environmental decision making more transparent and the French version says the purpose of the act will make environmental decision making more transparent. This difference should be corrected and, thus, the amendment.
I would like to also begin by thanking my colleagues who are here today for their hard work in the environment committee stage in amending the bill into workable and effective legislation. I would also like to congratulate my colleague from Don Valley West, who is the sponsoring member of the bill, for his dedication. It has been a pleasure working with him to advance Bill C-474. I would like to take this occasion to wish him well as he will soon embark on a new chapter in his life, a new career. Congratulations to him, through you, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased that all parties in the House were able to work together to show goodwill and a common commitment to environmental sustainability. Bill C-474 will help to increase transparency and accountability and to improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting.
The bill before us today would enable the government to better articulate its environmental sustainability priorities and to align the work of departments to support them. For the first time since the departmental sustainable development strategies were introduced in 1995, there will be an overarching federal sustainable development strategy to set the direction for the supporting departmental strategies. Federal departments will all be rowing in the same direction, together.
The forthcoming federal strategy will contain federal goals and targets for sustainable development, along with implementation strategies for each department. This approach will ensure government transparency and accountability for progress to advance sustainable development.
Indeed, the development of a federal sustainable development strategy is long overdue. There have been a number of commitments over the years to develop one. The first commitment was at the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1995. This commitment was reiterated at the 2002 world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The government is very pleased to meet this international commitment through this legislation and to have been able to work with all the political parties for its development.
The bill would also respond to numerous calls by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to develop a federal strategy. The commissioner has often likened the existing approach to sustainable development planning in Canada to trying to assemble a large jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. The legislation would finally provide that overarching picture.
In addition to the development and implementation of a federal sustainable development strategy, the bill includes a number of important elements that would serve to advance sustainable development here in Canada. For example, the bill calls for the establishment of a new office within Environment Canada to develop and monitor progress on the federal sustainable development strategy.
The bill would also establish a sustainable development advisory council with a broad membership that would include provincial and territorial, aboriginal and non-government representatives, as well as representatives from business and labour communities.
Bill C-474 outlines an important oversight role for cabinet in the development and implementation of the federal strategy. This again will increase accountability for progress on sustainable development to the highest political levels and will ensure that environment sustainability is kept at the forefront of government decision making.
The bill also outlines an important audit and assessment role for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development largely through consequential amendments to the Auditor General Act, which outlines more broadly the roles and duties of the commissioner. Through these proposed amendments, the commissioner will be required to review a draft of the federal strategy before it is finalized to ensure that the targets and their implementation strategies will be capable of being assessed. The commissioner will also report on the extent to which departments and agencies have contributed to meeting the targets set out in the federal sustainable development strategy and assess the fairness of the information contained in the progress report to be prepared by Environment Canada. Again, these are important steps toward increasing transparency and accountability to all Canadians.
The bill is in keeping with good pieces of work brought forward by the government, all in an effort to improve environmental protection in Canada. This includes initiatives such as the national vehicle scrappage program, introduced by the environment minister on June 4, and many other initiatives through the government's comprehensive plan to combat climate change and improve air quality through our government's “Turning the Corner” action plan.
The bill represents an important step in Canada toward living up to both domestic and international calls for the development of an overarching sustainable development strategy. The government is pleased to support Bill C-474.
Again, I want to congratulate every member who was part of the environment committee and who worked hard on this bill and, again, the member for Don Valley West.
Federal Sustainable Development Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2008 / 1:30 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau
I must first read a Speaker's ruling concerning Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act.
There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-474.
Motions Nos. 1 to 4 will be grouped for debate, and the voting patterns for the motions are available at the table.
I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 4 to the House.