Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have an opportunity to address my hon. colleagues in support of this new legislation.
I would like to speak to the principles of sustainable development in Bill C-57 and how these would help to advance the government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy.
Guelph has a long history of enacting sustainable development policies. Personally, I worked for five years on the mayor's task force for sustainability and have since focused my goals in the House around the triple bottom-line approach in balancing economic, environmental, and social development. Guelph is a living monument to our government's mantra that we cannot separate success in the environment and success in the economy. They are, in fact, one and the same. Guelph is known for its economic success, including low unemployment and a rapid growth in our economy. In fact, Guelph is one of the fastest-growing economies in Canada, but it is also one of the most environmentally conscious. We have the highest rates of waste diversion from landfills, at 68%. We have the lowest water consumption per capita, with a goal of reaching Norway's level. As we grow our population by 50%, we are looking to reduce our electrical consumption by the same amount so that we do not require more power for the 50% more people coming in.
Another key objective of Bill C-57 is poverty reduction. Guelph is actively working to eliminate poverty, with a focus on homelessness and mental health. Currently, the Guelph and Wellington task force for poverty elimination is a shining example of our community's dedication to eliminate poverty in our community. Its three-year strategic plan, from 2014 to 2017, addresses issues like food and income security, housing, and dental health. These social objectives are essential to sustainable development, as was acknowledged by the UN in the early 1980s. It all connects.
Let me continue with some global history. In 1983, the United Nations General Assembly established the World Commission on Environment and Development. It was chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland, and in 1987 the Brundtland commission published its report, “Our Common Future”, known as the Brundtland report. That report put sustainable development squarely on the global agenda. In its own words, “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That is often referred to as the standard definition of sustainable development. Indeed, that is how sustainable development is defined in our current Federal Sustainable Development Act.
The Brundtland report paved the way for an unprecedented 1992 United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro, better known as The Earth Summit. I want to make a special point of noting that it was a very great, distinguished Canada who helped to organize that event, the late Maurice Strong. The Earth Summit brought together more countries and heads of state than any previous event. It also established enduring and lasting mechanisms for international co-operation, following through on Gro Harlem Brundtland's vision of a sustainable future. Among these important agreements were the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biodiversity, and the development of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Canada was there. We supported the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
We have championed sustainable development since then. Following the Rio summit, in 1995, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to create a commissioner for sustainable development. Since 1997, government departments have been required to produce sustainable development strategies in compliance with the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act. In 2008, under the leadership of the Hon. John Godfrey, his private member's bill, Bill C-474, passed and became law as the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
The act provides the legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy every three years. It also requires 26 departments and agencies to prepare their own sustainable development strategies that comply and contribute to the overall federal strategy.
The year 2015 was a watershed year. In September, Canada was among 193 countries to adopt the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The 2030 agenda sets out a global framework of action over the next decade and a half for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership; to eradicate poverty; and to leave no one behind. The 17 sustainable development goals and 169 associated targets build on the previous millennium development goals. They are universally applicable and fully integrate the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
In December 2015, Canada was among the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which adopted the historic Paris Agreement.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act is part of the legacy that began with the Brundtland report and earth summit and is still relevant today as we advance the government's commitment to a clean environment and a strong economy. It provides the framework to develop and implement the federal sustainable development strategy, the complete guide to the Government of Canada's environmental sustainability priorities.
The most recent strategy, for the period 2016-19, was tabled in the House on October 6, 2016. It sets out 13 long-term, aspirational goals. In response to a recommendation of the standing committee, the strategy's goals are a Canadian reflection of the United Nations' sustainable development goals, with a focus on their environmental dimensions.
Today I would like to take a few minutes to tell my colleagues about the principles we are proposing in Bill C-57, principles this government believes will strengthen the Federal Sustainable Development Act. I also want to acknowledge the important work of our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, who, in their June 2016 report, highlighted the importance of modernizing our sustainable development principles.
Bill C-57 proposes to include the following principles: intergenerational equity, polluter pays, internalization of costs, openness and transparency, involving indigenous peoples' collaboration, and results and delivery.
The principle of intergenerational equity is the essence of sustainable development. It is the recognition that the decisions we make are not just about today and about us but also about the future and those who will be here after us. The Brundtland report set out the following principle on intergenerational equity: “States shall conserve and use the environment and natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.”
It was also recommended in the standing committee's June 2016 report that the principle of polluter pays be adopted, that we look at a new way of thinking, and that sustainable economic growth take into account the damages imposed on the environment.
Polluter pays means that those who generate pollution should bear the cost of having created pollution. Internalization of costs means that goods and services should reflect all the costs they generate for society, from their design to their consumption to their final disposal. The principles of openness and transparency are also intertwined with the purpose of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, ensuring that decision-making related to sustainable development is more transparent and is subject to accountability to Parliament.
That is why Bill C-57 proposes a principle on involving all peoples and being transparent to all peoples. I also note that the government's commitment is supported by provisions in the act to ensure and expand aboriginal representation on the Sustainable Development Advisory Council.
Finally, the principles we set out in Bill C-57 reaffirm that we are up to the challenge. Canada, like Guelph, is ready to seize the opportunities before us and to be bold. Sustainable development means growing a diversified, low-carbon economy while reducing emissions, generating good jobs for Canadians, and having a society we can all be proud of.