Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Linda Duncan  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Oct. 29, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights whose provisions apply to all decisions emanating from a federal source or related to federal land or a federal work or undertaking. The purpose of this enactment is to

(a) safeguard the right of present and future generations of Canadians to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

(b) confirm the Government of Canada’s public trust duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction;

(c) ensure all Canadians have access to adequate environmental information, justice in an environmental context and effective mechanisms for participating in environmental decision-making;

(d) provide adequate legal protection against reprisals for employees who take action for the purpose of protecting the environment; and

(e) enhance the public confidence in the implementation of environmental law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 16, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have become increasingly aware that we can longer claim to keep the economy and environment separate. We understand that the two go together and should be considered as a single element to create prosperity for our country, our citizens and our communities. I would even go further and say that human civilization can no longer be separated from this planet and from this environment that nourishes us.

More of us are living in cities and taking for granted that which nourishes and sustains us. Our food comes from the supermarket. We turn on the tap and the water runs. For energy, we need only go to the gas station and use the pump to get gas or plug in our appliances and use the electricity. We take all of that for granted.

We have taken for granted, to a really troubling level, our planet's capacity to sustain us, to enable us, to give us the means to live these rich and fulfilling lives that we all have. We have done this because over the centuries our planet's capacity has seemed infinite to renew itself, to replenish itself, to heal itself from ills, natural disasters or from human-made shifts and changes.

However, things have changed now in the 21st century and through the latter half of the 20th century. We have begun to fill up our planet, not necessarily with human beings yet, although we are on our way to 10 billion, but with our footprint.

In this chamber right now, all the different members of Parliament sitting here in the clothes that they are wearing, the electronics on their wrists and in their pockets and in the food that is in their bellies, we are now drawing on every corner of this planet for things that seem very local.

We can no longer pretend that we are not deeply connected to the land. We can no longer simply assume what we have up until this point, two basic assumptions we tend to make that we no longer question and that no longer hold true in our civilization and in our society in the 21st century.

The first we have is about space, that we will always have enough space, that there will always be enough room to grow, that there will always be more resources to find and that there will be no consequences once we throw something away because it will just degrade and disappear into the environment. We think this way because we have been successful in thinking this way because we have been successful in thinking this way for the centuries and the millennia that humans have been organized into cities and even before. However, the reality is that we can no longer ignore the consequences of seemingly small actions because, added together, all of our individual actions have tremendous consequences.

Similarly, in our regard to time, we always feel like there is enough time for the planet to replenish itself, there is enough time for us to shift in our behaviours and there will be enough time for us to respond to whatever crisis comes by and react to it. We have always been this way because we have succeeded in this way. We have always felt that nothing we could do collectively would have much of an impact on our planet as a whole.

However, that has now changed. We now can no longer hold to those assumptions. We have to begin respecting and understanding our links to the land.

Canada is an extraordinary country that is defined by its land as much as anything else. We are a vast country that stretches from coast to coast to coast. Our capacity to imagine ourselves and to define ourselves hinges on recognizing the vastness that surrounds us, the size and the distances between communities, and the extraordinary variances we have across this country from the top of the mountains to the forests to the prairie plains to the muskegs and the tundra to the coastal communities.

Everywhere we go in this country we are surrounded by our land and yet in our cities we forget about that. We need to remember that we are linked to the natural processes, to the ecosystem services that sustain us and permit us to live these full and enriching lives. That is something that we could take for granted for an awfully long time but we now no longer can.

If we are defined by our land, we are so, too, defined by the principles and the values that we set forth in our core documents, like the Constitution or our Bill of Rights. The idea that 100 years ago or 500 years ago one would have to enshrine the right to fresh air or clean water would have seemed silly. Obviously everyone has a right to that, there was no need for it. It would be like trying to legislate that people have to obey the law of gravity.

Unfortunately, the reality has changed. We need to take a moment in this space to look at articulating and enshrining these principles that we have always taken for granted that we no longer can.

This discussion on the proposal brought forward by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona is one that is extremely worthy of our fullest consideration. It is a shame to me that we would have to be discussing this, that somehow it would be possible that as a governing body, as a federal government, as a Parliament we would be putting forward laws and bills that would not take into account human beings' rights to live in a healthy, ecologically balanced environment.

Unfortunately, we must consider it now. When we look around the world at the different countries and the different jurisdictions that have brought forward initiatives such as this, stood forward on the possibility and the requirement to consider environmental rights, environmental responsibilities in every piece of legislation passed, we see that there are a number of positive consequences to this. We end up with stronger laws, better implementation, a more engaged public, more active courts and an increased accountability.

Those are the things that we need to start looking at. We need to begin to understand that the environment is not something that happens out there. It is not just about trees, birds and butterflies. It is about human beings who breath, eat, drink, build, dream and hope, and we can only do that if we are building on a strong foundation that respects the world around us.

The Liberal Party is pleased to see this bill come forward so we can discuss it and look at the best ways to implement this, discuss it in committee and ensure that Canada starts founding all of its laws and principles on a healthy respect for a strong environment.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-469, introduced by my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. I congratulate her on this excellent bill. I will start by saying that we are very happy with this bill and we will support it.

I hope that all members in this House will support this bill, even though the member for Papineau just told us that this bill will unite Canada, using the phrase from coast to coast.

We think that the provisions of this bill should apply in every region of the country. In Quebec, we think this bill would be a good idea because of the principles it sets out, which I will be discussing. I think it is important to talk about what is in this bill.

I will be a bit more down-to-earth than the member for Papineau. I will hold back on the rhetoric, but I will talk about this bill that would create a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights.

This bill states:

Whereas [people] understand the close linkages between a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and [Quebec's and all of] Canada’s economic, social, cultural and intergenerational security;

Whereas [people] have an individual—it is good to clarify that—and collective right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment;

Whereas action or inaction that results in significant environmental harm could compromise the life, liberty and security of the person and be contrary to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that in your ruling on the royal recommendation, you also tied this bill to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seems that doing so makes this already interesting bill stronger.

I will continue to read:

Whereas the Government of Canada has consistently made commitments to the international community on behalf of [everyone] to protect the environment for the benefit of the world;

We know how much this government just ignores these agreements. The previous Liberal government did more or less the same thing and put things off as long as possible in order to do nothing at all.

I will continue:

Whereas the Government's ability to protect the environment is enhanced when the public is engaged in environmental protection;

That is essential and I am pleased to see that it is in the bill.

This bill defines the term “environment” and I would like to look at that, because it is truly well done.

The bill says:

“environment” means the components of the Earth and includes (a) air, land and water;

(b) all layers of the atmosphere;

(c) all organic matter and living organisms;

(d) biodiversity within and among species; and

(e) the interacting natural systems...

I truly applaud my colleague's work on this definition of the environment. I think it is excellent.

Another interesting thing about this bill is that it defines the principles. There is the principle of environmental justice. The bill also defines the precautionary principle. In my opinion, the French translation is not quite right. The French should read, “principe de précaution”. That is the more commonly used term.

This is how the precautionary principle is defined:

“precautionary principle” means the principle that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the environment, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing action to protect the environment.

Including such a principle in legislation is unprecedented. Currently, in my own riding, we are wondering about the potential impact of the Trailbreaker project, which would carry oil from the oil sands to the United States.

Such a provision would clearly indicate whether decisions should be made immediately, because of the potential threats.

The bill goes on to talk about the principle of intergenerational equity. We know how important it is that future generations have the resources they need and that life on earth be worthwhile. The bill also refers to the polluter pays principle, which we are quite familiar with. It would finally be written into this legislation, which is extremely complex. We admire how well drafted the bill is. There is one last principle I have not mentioned, and that is the principle of environmental justice.

So there are these five principles. Then there is the conclusion of part 5, which is a masterpiece, in my opinion:

the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person, including the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

We find this charming. We vote for what is good for Quebec, and we are certain this bill is good for Quebec, so hon. members can be sure we will support the bill.

In conclusion, I want to say that this bill can be applied in very practical ways. Look at what the Secretary-General of the United Nations suggested to the leaders of all countries in 2008: they should adopt a green New Deal, meaning head in the direction of new energies. We, with a Conservative government like our current one, have continued with a brown Old Deal. It is too bad. Many countries responded to this appeal and devoted a considerable share of the funds in their economic recovery plans to green investments.

The Bloc Québécois made some very practical suggestions. None of them was taken into account. In other countries such as Korea, though, 70% of the economic recovery package was devoted to green energy. The United States spent five times as much per capita on green energy in its recovery plan. That is not what was done in Canada because they are not really convinced.

Take the example of Europe. It has something called the 20-20-20 plan. It is amazing. No one believes that the Conservative government might some day adopt this kind of program and align itself with Europe. This 20-20-20 plan means 20% more energy efficiency, 20% more renewable energy, and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. It is realistic, it is doable and we really could set this target.

Bill C-469 could underpin some regulations of this kind. I am sure we could be doing something other than developing nuclear energy and coal-fired plants in Canada. If we set off in the direction of a green New Deal, we would be showing a lot more respect for Bill C-469.

I hope all members of the House will want to defend this bill and everyone will be proud of passing it because it is essential for our environment.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am so thrilled to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-469 that would create an environmental bill of rights.

This bill was tabled by my friend and colleague, the MP for Edmonton—Strathcona, herself a tireless advocate for the protection of the environment for all Canadians, but in particular for future generations. Thanks to her vision, we have a bill that addresses not just a solution for one environmental issue or another, not just a policy position on climate change or toxins or land protection, but a true bill of rights, a historic federal bill that would enshrine the right of all Canadians to a healthy environment. I applaud my colleague for her efforts which have been crystallized in this piece of legislation.

As the NDP health critic, I want to use my time to talk about the links between environment and health because the two issues are so inextricably linked that I actually consider this to be somewhat of a bill of rights for health as well.

The purpose of the Canadian environmental bill of rights is to safeguard the right of present and future generations of Canadians to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, to confirm the Government of Canada's public trust duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction, and to ensure that all Canadians have access to adequate environmental information, justice in an environmental context, and effective mechanisms for participating in environmental decision-making.

I see this bill of rights as linked to health because, according to the World Health Organization, one-quarter of all preventable illnesses can be avoided through environmental management programs because those illnesses are directly linked and directly caused by environmental factors.

The health risks resulting from damage to the environment include the exposure to physical, chemical and biological factors. If we look at, for example, just air quality, human health is affected by air pollution, ranging from mild changes in respiratory function to increased mortality from respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity. For children, air pollution is of particular concern, as it raises the risk for acute lower respiratory infections, asthma and even low birth rate.

When our water, our air or our soil is affected, it in turn affects our bodies in terms of the development of illness and disease, the spread of illness and disease within populations and our ability to fight them off. Think of what it could mean for people's lives if the air, the water, and the soil that they interacted with, that their food grows in, and that their children play in was toxin-free and pollution-free.

Food production is also an incredibly important part of the environment and health. Biodiversity has to be a goal of ours, as well as sustainable food practices. This is how we can look at both the environment and health, and protect them both. We need to start thinking about the interaction between climate and health, and the negative effects that climate change renders on our planet and the health of our population.

According to the World Health Organization around the world, 13 million deaths annually are due to preventable environmental causes. Preventing environmental risk could save as many as 4 million lives a year in children alone, mostly in developing countries. This is a piece of Canadian legislation, but this bill shows leadership and it would set an example around the world.

We have heard quite a bit about this bill in the House already, but there are two parts of the bill that I would in particular like to highlight.

First, this bill provides legal protections for employees who exercise their rights under the bill in the name of environmental protection, potentially by providing evidence contrary to commercial interests or of their employer. This is incredibly important, as we want to encourage people to protect their fellow citizens, and not allow corporations and industries to make decisions and take actions that are dangerous and contrary to the public good, something that has been going on for years with disastrous consequences.

Second, this bill mandates that the Auditor General is obligated to review bills and regulations for violations of the environmental bill of rights, and to report any such violations to Parliament. This is exactly the accountability that is required to protect the health and the environment of Canadians.

Not too long ago in Halifax, I met with some amazing young people who live downstream of the tar sands. They were in Halifax raising awareness about their situation and the realities of living downstream from the largest industrial project on the planet.

Jada Voyageur is a young mother and activist who lives in Fort Chipewyan, a community that has been hit hard by cancer and other health impacts linked to contamination of water and wildlife. Simon Reece is the downstream coordinator for the keepers of the Athabasca, a group dedicated to uniting peoples in the Athabasca River and lake basins to secure and protect lands in the watershed. I met with both of them when they were in Halifax.

Ms. Voyageur and Mr. Reece were in Halifax to talk to people about how the operation and development of the tar sands is driving our national agenda on climate change. It comes at a very high cost to the surrounding environment and their people. They pointed out that as the G8 and G20 meet this summer in Toronto to discuss, among other matters, maternal and child health, our leaders are ignoring the health of mothers and children right here at home in Canada.

I was touched by their stories, moved by their passion, and inspired by their courage to take on the economic and political power of tar sands developers. When my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona told me about her bill, the environmental bill of rights, I thought about Ms. Voyageur and Mr. Reece. I thought about the calls I have received in my office from people living around the Sydney tar ponds and dealing with the health impacts of that.

I thought about the people in Sydney who have been fighting for justice for decades. I thought about the Hillside-Trenton Environmental Watch Association in Nova Scotia, who are crusaders in linking health to the coal fire power plant in the middle of the community. I thought about mercury in our fish and toxins in our water. I thought about my hometown, a town built on a lake that does not exist anymore, a lake that was filled in with mine tailings just like so many lakes around it.

I thought about how this bill would change everything and I was very hopeful. It is with great pride and hope that I support the environmental bill of rights. I strongly urge all members of the House to do the right thing, to do the just thing, and support it with me.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-469.

Surveys with Canadians regularly rank environment and economic issues as number one or number two and what they want the government to place on the government's agenda. It is their high priority, as it is with this government.

These two issues, the environment and the economy, also have an important link in C-469.

First, we understand that the bill's intention is to ultimately provide better environmental protection in Canada. However, although it is a good objective the effectiveness of these rights compared to those which already exist still need to be proven. Canadians have watched as Parliament and successive governments have passed several laws and regulations to protect the environment. However, without a serious enforcement of the laws and regulations, environmental protection remains theoretical.

To achieve real goals in environmental protection, we need to have better enforcement of the laws and regulations that we already have. Our government is proud to have concentrated its efforts in the area of enforcement, notably through the adoption of the Environmental Enforcement Act nearly a year ago. We are already seeing a positive effect from that legislation.

As I mentioned in my introduction, Canadians also place an importance on the economy. In particular, Canadians expect the government to manage public funds effectively and with the greatest of care. However, we see that the impact of the rights proposed in Bill C-469 on Canada's economic growth and especially on the government's budget have not yet been documented.

With the perspective of sustainable development, it is imperative to evaluate each legislative measure so as to ensure the best possible synergy between environmental objectives and economic security. However, the creation of individual environmental rights could, depending on how they are written, lead to high cost and significant delays resulting from legal battles that would unduly delay the achieving of the planned objectives.

Furthermore the litigiousness of the environmental protection caused by Bill C-469 should in our view be questioned. The creation of individual rights to a healthy environment could cause in the transfer of environmental decisions from elected members of the government to non-elected members of the judiciary branch, who are not required to report to Canadians.

It should be remembered that Bill C-469 essentially proposes the creation of three types of environmental rights.

First, the bill proposes the creation of a right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment for each Canadian resident in addition to creating a corollary obligation of the government to protect this right and to act as a trustee for Canada's environment. Legal actions would allow Canadians to enforce the execution of the obligations.

Second, the bill proposes a series of procedural environmental rights, including measures for the public's participation in the decision making process and the right to demand inquiries and access to information rights.

Third, the bill proposes civil action where any Canadian resident can ensure environmental protection from another person who has violated or who may violate the law, regulation or any other federal regulatory test.

In the first hour of debate, my opposition colleagues placed a lot of emphasis on the first type of right in Bill C-469 as proposing to create; that is to say the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. The opposition colleagues gave a grim picture of the current situation in Canada. It was mentioned several times that, unlike Canada, more than 130 countries had included environmental rights in their constitution. The member for Edmonton—Strathcona notably quoted the example of India and Bangladesh, which have incorporated such rights in their constitutions. Given the serious impact of this bill, this comparative analysis needs to go a bit further.

First, it should be remembered that Bill C-469 would do nothing to amend the current lack of environmental rights in the Canadian Constitution. Rather the bill proposes to add the right to a healthy and ecologically-balanced environment to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to add this right to the new Canadian charter of environmental rights.

Second, it should be pointed out that of the 31 member countries of the OECD, 19 have not included any explicit right to a healthy environment in their constitution. Among the countries that have not explicitly recognized environmental rights, there are Australia, Denmark, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, Sweden, the U.K. and the United States. Furthermore, even in the number of OECD countries that have inserted explicit environmental rights in their constitution, this right is sometimes subject to limitations.

When we take a closer look at Bill C-469, we realize that it is an original proposal, different from most environmental right instruments being used currently around the world. For example, the obligation that would be given to the government to protect the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and the corollary recourse by which legal action could be taken against the government because it did not ensure the enforcement of its law in a specific case is unprecedented. The discretion to enforce a law usually rests with the government.

During the first hour of debate, the member for Ottawa South referred to the Yale-Columbia environmental performance ratings. The ratings have countries, such as Bangladesh and India, ranked 139th and 123rd respectively in terms of environmental performance. In contrast, other countries which do not have environmental rights included in their constitution are countries such as Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden and the U.K. and they are ranked first, second, fourth and fourteenth in the report.

Without making any statements on the accuracy the Yale-Columbia rankings, it is obvious to me that whether environmental rights are included or not in the constitution is not in itself a determining factor on the state of the country's environmental protection measures. That is why we think we need to be very careful making a comparative analysis of Bill C-469 with the environmental rights placed in other jurisdictions.

Bill C-469 is unique because it is placed within a specific context, the Canadian legislative system, a system that already includes several environmental laws and several environmental protection measures. A thorough analysis of Bill C-469 requires participation from legal and scientific experts in order to evaluate the true impact of the bill on environmental protection, economic growth and social fairness in Canada.

By comparison, it should be pointed out that in France, the adoption of the environmental charter in February 2005 was done after four years of preparation from the Coppens commission, a commission composed of two committees, one legal, the other scientific. The commission also consulted more than 55,000 stakeholders during the course of its work.

It should also be mentioned, by the way, that the French environmental charter stipulates procedural environmental rights, such as access to information and participation in public decisions that have an impact on the environment, but only under conditions and limits defined by law. This type of express limitations is reminiscent of the environmental rights inserted into Ontario and Quebec law, which were defined within the limits stipulated by law.

We believe the measures included in Bill C-469 are unique and complicated, making it a bill whose consequences on the environment and the economy are not known. It would therefore be essential to wait for the stakeholders involved in this bill, including legal and scientific experts and economic stakeholders before making a final judgment.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I am enjoying this debate a lot and I have not even started speaking to the bill.

I want to point out for the voters in the riding of the member for Edmonton—Strathcona that they certainly got a bargain when they chose her as their member. She is extremely energetic. I do not think she ever sleeps. She constantly works and puts top effort into it.

It is interesting to note that the government has used every means at its disposal to try to derail this bill. On May 6, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons told the Speaker that the bill required a royal recommendation. That is a government manoeuvre to slow down a bill because a private member's bill cannot call on the government to expend money. Governments draw long bows in many cases and look for obscure arguments to try to get bills ruled out of order on the basis that they need a royal recommendation.

Like the road runner in the cartoon, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has gone through the government's defences. The Conservatives lost their request to the Speaker. The Speaker ruled in favour of the member for Edmonton--Strathcona, so it is now onward and upward with this bill. I believe the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc are all united in support of Bill C-469. The government's best laid plans have gone awry and that is good news.

Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, would be a first for Canada. I support this historic federal bill, which would enshrine the right of all Canadians to a healthy environment.

Rights are a reflection of what matters most to a society. At this point in history, few things pose a greater risk to the health and well-being of individuals and communities than the health of our planet. We only have to look at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now. If that is not a wake-up call, then I do not know what is.

Recognition of environmental rights is a global phenomenon. National governments are stepping forward to recognize some form of right to a healthy environment in national constitutions. It has been pointed out that 130 countries recognize the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions.

We only have to look back to the recent past to see what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union. Rivers were polluted and the Chernobyl meltdown caused much devastation. We discovered that the military was dumping nuclear waste into the ocean. Even the American military has done such things in the past.

People demanded changes. They realized we cannot sustain ourselves in a toxic environment. There have been rising cancer rates among farmers across this land. There have been increasing movements to restrict cosmetic pesticides, to identify chemicals in things like perfume.

People are taking a positive approach to the environment and holding industry to account, and that rankles the Conservatives. Big business dislikes any type of tough environmental regulations because it hits it on the bottom line. Many businesses would like to move all production to the Third World, and they have certainly done a lot of it, but they cannot just pack up and take everything away. They will fight all attempts to hold them accountable in terms of tough environmental laws.

International bodies, regional authorities, and local municipalities all over this planet are declaring the right to clean air, clean water, and uncontaminated land. In fact, our environmental rights are enjoyed in over half the countries in the world, through either international agreements or the provisions of national constitutions.

The first document in international law to recognize the right to a healthy environment was only written in 1972, just a short time ago. The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, also known as the Stockholm Declaration, was adopted June 16, 1972 at the 21st plenary meeting of the United Nations.

The first principle of the Stockholm Declaration states:

Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

Since the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration, the world has seen a huge shift toward confirming environmental rights. Today a proliferation of international law agreements and at least 85 national constitutions recognize some form of right to a healthy environment. Environmental rights are also enshrined in the sub-national constitutions of many nations, such as state constitutions and provincial charters.

I might point out that it is disasters like the BP experience in the United States that will actually drive the agenda. We cannot see a lot of good coming out of a disaster like this, but it will actually set the legislative agenda, certainly in the United States, and probably in other countries around the world. It will pull a lot of people, a lot of politicians who are in the middle, onside and will make them recognize that we have to take a very tough position against the corporations.

In many respects, we cannot blame the corporations for wanting to maximize profits, as long as we have a system in our country that rewards the maximization of profits at all costs and rewards the executives with bonuses based on how efficient the system is and how lean and mean they run the company. They lay off the inspectors. They lay off the professionals. They operate with skeleton staff at the lowest possible cost to maximize profits so that they can get bigger bonuses. Any kind of environmental consideration is basically thrown by the wayside. Clearly, appealing to their good sense and corporate responsibility is not going to work. To rein in these corporations, they have to be legislated, and the legislation has to be followed up with proper enforcement and proper penalties.

These rights are further upheld by the national and sub-national legislation of many nations as well as by the declarations of countless local governments. Despite this global trend, environmental rights remain largely unconfirmed in Canada. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not address environmental protection or environmental health. In fact, environmental rights are recognized by only four provincial and territorial laws: Quebec, Ontario, Northwest Territories, and Yukon.

Environmental rights recognize and seek to protect the quality and health of the environment that is essential to human life and dignity. For example, the constitution of Argentina recognizes that all inhabitants should enjoy the right to a healthy and balanced environment that is fit for human development so that productive activities satisfy current needs without compromising those of future generations. They also have the duty to preserve the environment. Damaging the environment generates the obligation to repair it, and as a priority, in the manner established by law.

I had another example from the Philippines. A court in the Philippines has ordered a cleanup of the highly polluted Manila harbour, based on the constitutional right to a balanced and healthy ecology. There is also a case from Costa Rica, where a constitutional court ordered a halt to the unsustainable sea turtle fishery based on the constitutional right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.

As we can see, it can be done if we have a will to do it, and I think that we are getting there, little by little. We are getting there.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

June 15th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of my colleagues in the House who spoke to my bill. I appreciate all of their comments and I appreciate their ongoing support in moving forward stronger environmental laws and their enforcement at the federal level. I greatly appreciate it.

In closing, as Dr. David Boyd, a renowned environmental lawyer in Canada, has documented, there has been a remarkable and ongoing shift toward constitutional recognition of the importance of protecting the environment. As my hon. colleague mentioned, since 1972 with the Stockholm Declaration, more than 40% of the world's national constitutions now include some reference to environmental rights and environmental responsibilities.

As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, every nation has approached this in a different way, as is their power. However, it is important to point out that many nations in the world, though not ours, have moved forward to take the additional step to actually enshrine in their constitution the right to a clean and healthy environment. In no way does this bill set about amending the Constitution; that is not possible, but it does set forth to provide and extend rights to Canadians to ensure that they have a healthy environment.

I appreciate the remarks from my colleague from Halifax to the effect that we can no longer separate environmental protection from the right to health in the future, particularly for future generations. That is what this bill hopes to do, to extend to potentially impacted communities and their children the opportunity to have their rights to a clean and healthy environment enshrined in law and their right and opportunity and the tools to hold the government accountable.

It is also noteworthy that nations belonging to the OECD, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have all adopted these kinds of rights to a certain extent across the Americas, except the United States and Canada, Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

Over the past decades, a number of Canadian provincial governments have also enshrined some of these rights to a limited extent. My hon. colleague mentioned some of those jurisdictions. To their credit, they have stepped up to the plate and entered the next century.

I would also like to take the time to thank the many communities across Canada that have contacted me to thank me for introducing this bill and to express their strong support. I cannot possibly mention all of them. I heard from more than a dozen communities in Saskatchewan. They endorse this bill and hope that it will pass. I heard from well over 15 communities in my province of Alberta, everywhere from North Star to Deadwood, Edmonton, Red Deer, Beaumont, High Prairie, St. Paul, Wabasca, Spruce Grove and St. Albert to mention only a few. I heard from Vancouver. I heard from Kitchener, Ontario. I heard from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. I heard from Fredericton and Petitcodiac, New Brunswick.

I am happy to be hearing from Canadians across the country from every small corner. They realize that they need these protections. They need these rights. They need the powers to hold the government accountable to protect their community.

I do not think I have the need to outline the specifics of the bill again. Essentially, the purpose of the bill is to extend to every Canadian resident the right to a clean, healthy, ecologically balanced environment and the right and the tools to hold the government accountable to enforce the laws.

A former Conservative minister of the environment first tabled the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the mid-1980s. At the same time in the House, that minister tabled the first enforcement and compliance policy, and in so doing said that it is of no value to pass a law unless there is the political will to enforce that law.

That is exactly the reason I have brought forward this bill, to hold the government accountable to enforce the very laws it has enacted with the support of the House and to give the citizens of Canada the opportunity to hold the government accountable to protect them and their children.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-469, An Act to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, sponsored by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Without commenting on the merits of the bill, I submit that it would require new spending not authorized by Parliament. The second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states on page 834:

—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.

Bill C-469 would establish a Canadian environmental bill of rights. The bill raises problems with respect to new spending in two areas. First, part 2 would authorize environmental protection action 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 environmental harm.

As a result, clause 19 in part 2 would create potential new legal liabilities for the government by adding the power to enable 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. Clause 19 would result in a potential increase in the government's legal liabilities since payments resulting from decisions of the Federal Court would be made from the consolidated revenue fund.

Procedural authorities and precedents indicate that such a measure would require a royal recommendation. The 21st edition of Erskine May states on page 714:

Any proposal whereby the Crown would incur a liability or a contingent liability payable out of money to be voted by Parliament [requires the Queen's recommendation].

On June 12, 1973 the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that a royal recommendation was required for Bill S-5, an act to amend the Farm Improvement Loans Act. He stated:

It may be said that the proposal in Bill S-5 does not in itself propose a direct expenditure. It does, however, propose substantial additional liabilities on public moneys.

On May 25, 2009 the Speaker of the other place ruled that Bill S-219, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loans), required a royal recommendation because it would increase the Crown's liability under the Canada Student Loans Act. The Speaker stated:

Bill S- 219 would expand the range of conditions under which the government would have to make good its guarantee of loans under the Canada Student Loans Act. This would change the existing scheme, since payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund might increase due to the change in possible obligations. As such, the bill should have a Royal Recommendation--

While the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act establishes a general process for settling civil judgments, Bill C-469 would establish a new mechanism for creating civil liability judgments, thereby expanding the objects and purposes of the royal recommendation that accompanied the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act. The sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms states on page 183:

—an amendment infringes the financial initiative of the Crown not only if it increases the amount but also if it extends the objects and purposes...expressed in the communication by which the Crown has demanded or recommended a charge.

The second problematic area of Bill C-469 is part 4, which would add additional functions for the Auditor General not currently authorized in the statute, which would require new government spending. Part 4 would require the Auditor General to:

—examine every regulation transmitted to the Clerk of the Privy Council for registration pursuant to the Statutory Instruments Act and every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a minister of the Crown, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and the Auditor General shall report any such inconsistency to the House of Commons at the first convenient opportunity.

Section 5 of the Auditor General Act sets out the powers and duties of the Auditor General. It states:

The Auditor General is the auditor of the accounts of Canada...and as such shall make such examinations and inquiries as he considers necessary to enable him to report as required by this Act.

The act is clear that the Auditor General has discretion in the examinations and inquiries that she wishes to undertake. Bill C-469 would change that by requiring the Auditor General to examine all regulations and bills introduced in the House of Commons.

The role of the Auditor General is an audit function. This means that the Auditor General can examine and inquire into the performance of a program, money spent on a particular program, and examine financial statements. What is not provided for is a perspective analysis of the impact of proposals not yet implemented. Yet, this is exactly what Bill C-469 calls for, to study policy proposals before the House of Commons.

The Auditor General's website is clear on this point. On choosing topics for performance audits, it states:

The Auditor General does not audit topics that fall outside the Office’s mandate. Examples are all policy decisions, which are the prerogative of Parliament and government--

Precedents indicate that substantive mandate changes require a royal recommendation. On February 11, 2008 the Speaker ruled on Bill C-474, National Sustainable Development Act, that:

However, clause 13 of Bill C-474 would modify the mandate of this new independent commissioner to require...the development of “a national sustainability monitoring system...The clause...would impose additional functions on the commissioner that are substantially different from those foreseen in the current mandate....clause 13 thus alters the conditions set out in the original bill to which a royal recommendation was attached.

In conclusion, Bill C-469 would increase spending through provisions to increase government liabilities and through provisions to expand the mandate of the Auditor General, and therefore would require a royal recommendation.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, almost three decades ago, I drafted an environmental bill of rights with the northern Alberta environmental law section of the Canadian Bar Association. Sadly, that bill was squashed by the southern Albert bar.

Since that date, however, more than 130 nations have enshrined the right to a clean and healthy environment in their constitutions. Others have enacted national laws. A number of provincial governments in Canada, to their credit, have enacted environmental rights. Some have enshrined these rights in a stand-alone law, such as the environmental bill of rights in Ontario. Other provincial governments have incorporated an array of rights and duties in their respective environmental laws.

Past federal governments have also incorporated some limited government duties and citizen rights to environmental protection in federal statutes, but no comprehensive law has been enacted at the federal level to accord the right to all Canadians, regardless of where they live in this vast nation, to a clean and healthy environment. Equally rare are any mandatory duties imposed upon federal ministers or officials to take action to protect the environment, or to take precautionary measures to prevent harm to health and the environment.

There have been many public calls for an environmental bill of rights to ensure that all Canadians will receive equal protection for their environment and health. I am appreciative of the many legal experts who helped me in the crafting of this bill. I am also encouraged by the letters of support I am receiving from communities across the country, from Newfoundland to Victoria, from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan, from Alberta to the Northwest Territories.

The key purposes of the bill are the following.

It imposes environmental duties on the Government of Canada and extends clear environmental rights to Canadians. It grants every resident of Canada the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. It imposes the obligation on the Government of Canada, within its jurisdiction, to protect those rights.

What new duties are imposed?

First, the bill imposes a legal duty on the federal government to protect the public trust, defined as the duty to preserve and protect the collective interests of the people of Canada in the quality of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Various federal ministers are currently obligated to take specified actions to protect the environment or to prevent health impacts. For example, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the federal Minister of Health is obligated and mandated to take action when she receives information that toxins may harm human health. Additionally, the federal Minister of the Environment is obligated to take action within specified timelines to protect endangered species.

However, what is groundbreaking about this bill is that it extends the duty to all federal authorities, in all federal decisions impacting the environment, to assert its jurisdiction and powers to protect the environment on behalf of all Canadians.

Where the government knows or suspects that a substance may harm the environment or human health, it should be duty bound to act. Where a species is endangered and in fact listed under federal law, the government should have the duty to act.

Second, the bill compels the government to provide effective, timely and affordable access to environmental information. Clear evidence of the need to make mandatory this duty is found in the recent awarding by the Information Commissioner of an F grade to Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

Just this week, scientists testified before the parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, calling for greater transparency in decisions about recovery plans for threatened species, if only to ensure that scientific information provided is factored into decision-making.

Given timely access to information, potentially impacted communities will be better able to hold federal ministers and authorities accountable to act in their interests to prevent harm or to require action by polluters. Government officials will be obligated to reveal to Canadians the negotiation positions by the government on critical environmental treaties and bilateral agreements.

Associated with this duty is the extension of whistleblower protection for any federal employees who participate in decision-making, who apply for investigations, who provide information, who give evidence, or refuse to act in good faith.

Third, under this proposed law, the federal government must also ensure timely and effective public participation in decision-making on federal laws and policies related to the environment. This enshrines a commitment made by Canada in ratifying the Rio convention and as signatory to the North American agreement on environmental cooperation.

What new rights are accorded or embellished under Bill C-469? The bill enshrines a bundle of environmental rights. It accords the necessary rights and standing to Canadians to ensure access to environmental justice. This includes seeking court intervention where the government fails to comply with legal duties to protect the environment, or human health impacts, or to enforce federal environmental laws.

Any resident of Canada or entity such as an environmental non-government organization will have standing to bring a public trust action against the Government of Canada for failing to meet its duties as trustee of the environment. The courts are accorded broad and innovative powers in a successful action, including restoration, preventive measures, or order for production of a compliance plan, all sensible results. They may suspend or cancel permits or require posting of financial collateral.

Standing is also accorded to bring civil actions against violators of federal environmental laws where the offence has resulted, or may result, in significant environmental harm. Obviously, it adheres to the precautionary principle. This extends the right of standing beyond a more narrow class of persons who may be deemed directly impacted. Any Canadian will have the right to seek the review or enactment of any federal environmental law or policy.

Any resident of Canada will be able to seek the investigation of an offence under any federal environmental law. While this right is provided under some federal environmental laws, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, this would extend that opportunity for all laws, whether related to toxins, fisheries, wildlife, climate change, or environmental assessment.

Recently, the government tabled an omnibus bill to make more consistent enforcement provisions across the law. This would do a similar action in according equal rights and obligations across all environmental statutes. Canadians are also granted the right to seek an interim order to prevent significant environmental harm. Clear criteria are specified for the court to consider in granting such an order. This is consistent with the direction the government has taken in criminal law. Clearly the laws on the environment should also follow a consistent direction. The order may issue a cleanup order, a restoration order, or fines directed to environmental protection for monitoring.

In closing, I would like to share with the House a quote which regularly inspires me in taking action to protect the environment. I have spent more than 35 years in my career as an environmental lawyer representing the interests of the public of Canada and abroad to ensure that they have equal rights and that government is obligated to take action. This is a quote by George Cheever:

The man who can really, in living union of the mind and heart, converse with God through nature, finds in the material forms around him, a source of power and happiness inexhaustible, and like the life of angels.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her more formal presentation on this important bill on the Canadian environmental bill of rights. I would like to ask her about elements of the bill that would engage the Canadian citizenry. I know, for example, that under the North American Free Trade Agreement Commission for Environmental Cooperation there is a role for citizens from the three countries that participate in NAFTA, just as there is a specific role for citizens under the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's mandate.

Could the member help us understand how the bill would get Canadian citizens more actively engaged in protecting our beautiful environment?

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, the member's question is an important one. Under previous Conservative governments and under a number of Liberal governments, Canada has had a propensity for stepping up to the plate and being one of the first to sign and ratify international conventions, but the way Canadian law works is that we actually have to enshrine in our domestic laws those obligations so that they can be binding on the country. We have also had a propensity for signing on to bilateral agreements where we commit to do a variety of things, such as under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.

This bill would put in law the binding duty to deliver those rights to access to information to participate in decision making across statutes, across obligations of the government dealing with protection of the environment and health.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate the efforts of my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona.

Previously, the New Democratic Party brought forward Bill C-311, which was just going through the process here in the House. At committee, we heard from various experts and witnesses, some of whom said that they produced the costing associated with Bill C-311 through their various reports.

Has the member asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer or any other third party, or any party at all, for a cost analysis of what this proposed bill would cost the taxpayers of Canada?

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, the question asked by the hon. member for Wetaskiwin is one that the Conservatives like to put to the opposition when in fact they do not do the costing for their own bills.

I would like to advise that the cost that has not been calculated is the most important one, which is, the cost to the government for not taking action to protect the environment.

The member will notice, if he goes through the bill, that it provides that citizens will intervene only when the government does not deliver on its duties. Presumably, the government has budgeted to make sure that it delivers all of its environmental obligations. If it does, there will be no additional costs incurred.

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the member on an excellent speech and on her work on the bill. She obviously has the government concerned because it is already dealing with the royal recommendation issue.

She mentioned some other countries in the world that have legislation of this type. We are always interested in best practices here in the House. Which governments in the world have, in the member's opinion, the best legislation of this type and how does her legislation compare with that other legislation?

Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business

May 6th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, that is an extremely tough question.

I could not possibly go over the 130 countries that have taken the effort to actually enshrine in their constitutions the right to a clean, healthy environment.

I can advise the member that I had the privilege of working in Bangladesh. That country, which operates under a similar system of law as Canada does, has taken that measure and actually enshrined that right. India has as well. I would be here all day if I listed all the countries. A better way to put it is that Canada is among the few nations that have not taken that step, and that is precisely why I have tabled the bill.