An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.

Status

In committee (House), as of Nov. 26, 2009
(This bill did not become 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.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today at report stage of Bill S-210.

This bill was originally Bill S-216. It came to the House of Commons from the Senate and was sent to committee, where unfortunately discussion was stopped when Parliament was prorogued. It has now been reinstated. When Parliament is prorogued, the Senate can bring the same bill forward as long as it is identical to the original one and as long as it is done within 60 days. It then goes through the same procedure in the House. The bill is now at report stage and is being supported by all parties. That is a positive situation.

This bill would amend two acts, the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. It would make primarily housekeeping changes to those acts. I will explain their importance again as well as the importance of the whole initiative at large.

The first change proposed by the bill is that reports would be tabled not only in the House of Commons but also in the Senate and for the Senate committees.

The second change involves the progress reports made by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development at the annual reporting time of the Auditor General. The commissioner gets to do one annual report. This change would allow him or her to report more frequently, just as the Auditor General can report several times a year.

In summary, the bill proposes to make two administrative changes to this important regime. The commissioner's reports would go to both houses of Parliament and he or she could report more than once a year.

I want to commend the member for Kitchener Centre for his bipartisan effort in making sure that we have taken a non-partisan approach to this important issue. As I have previously mentioned, all parties agree on this piece of legislation.

I also want to commend Senator Tommy Banks for his work on this bill in the Senate. This is a historic environmental bill in Canada. It is one of the most important environmental initiatives in our history.

I also want to commend the hon. John Godfrey for his tremendous work in getting the whole regime in place. Mr. Godfrey was my mentor in Parliament, and I was very excited for him to see this regime get through Parliament. The previous speaker has already outlined the tremendous environmental benefits that the regime would provide.

I want to talk about the importance of the two changes that the bill would make.

The first proposed change is that the commissioner's reports would go to the Senate and its committees. This was actually in the original regime but for some nefarious reason was eliminated. I am delighted that all parties saw that this was an obvious omission and all worked hard to put this initiative back in the legislation.

Sometimes we in this place and the other place have to remind people that we have a bicameral system in Canada. Like many countries in the world, we have two houses of Parliament. Both houses make sure that legislation, which is the foundation of our social contract and how we run our lives, gets done carefully with all the required checks and balances.

The Senate is of different construction from the House of Commons. One of the advantages of having two different bodies, if we have an understanding of group behaviour and sociology, is that it is good for a separate group that is not under the same influence to have another look at a particular piece of legislation.

The other difference is that the Senate is constructed to represent regions and minorities. Canada is a very huge country. It is the second-largest in the world. Its diverse and exciting regions have to be represented well in this Parliament. That is one of the roles of the Senate.

I represent the Arctic as the official opposition critic. Even the Arctic is not a monolith. The three territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut and the people in those regions, the Inuit, the first nations people, and the Métis, are totally different. We have to ensure that they are represented in our system. In the first past the post system, minorities are not necessarily represented in this House in the same percentages as they are in the population. The Senate has a very important role to represent minorities and to ensure that they are well represented in the affairs of state.

That is a fairly obvious change, and I am sure it will be unanimously supported by every member of both houses.

The second change is that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development would report more than once a year. The commissioner must have the ability to report more than annually, as is done in the present regime. I think this makes obvious intuitive sense to everyone on something as important as environmental change. As we know, environmental change can occur very quickly and drastically. This is crucial information. The ability to report more than just once a year would make eminent sense in the running of our great nation.

I had hoped that there would be in this debate, perhaps by the researchers of one of our four parties or even the commissioner himself, an outline of some of the reports, the advantages, the progress that has been made, and some of the failures. There was a reference earlier in the debate to a failure a number of years ago by the Department of Finance. Both the successes and the failures can show the advantages of reporting more than once a year, how this great success story could be used by other departments, or how some failure could be stopped in its tracks.

Not having real examples, I can only think of a couple of possibilities that might occur. Let us say a department in its operations was using a cleaning or air conditioning or some other chemical that all of a sudden was determined by Health Canada to be very toxic or cancerous. If some departments removed it quickly but others did not, that report coming sooner than later would certainly help remove some disastrous human health consequences.

As another example, let us say a huge district heating project was started near a federal building and a particular department of that federal building could have accessed that particular project and did not. That would be a fait accompli that could not be reversed if we had to wait a year for the report. However, if it were done quickly, the commissioner could bring up that point and the department could move ahead and make that change.

In conclusion, I would just say I am very happy that we have all-party support for these very important changes to a very important bill. Everyone knows the dramatic effects of climate change on the whole country, but especially on the north. We only have to look at last month's Canadian Geographic on climate futures and all the disastrous consequences. This bill and the reports of the department are certainly working as leaders for the country. If we do not do it as government, then we cannot expect other governments that are trying to do this, and businesses and private citizens, to move forward on making Canada sustainably developed.

Disability BenefitsOral Questions

October 27th, 2010 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are only six weeks left, so I hope the Conservatives will hurry up. These people clearly need help today. They are here in Ottawa in wheelchairs and with canes, in tears, begging parliamentarians for help.

For them, December 31 is the end. Their health insurance benefits will no longer be paid as a result of the bankruptcy of Nortel. Bill S-216 is their last hope.

Why is the Prime Minister not ordering his Conservative-dominated Senate to pass this bill today, before it is too late?

Disability BenefitsOral Questions

October 27th, 2010 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I met with Joseé, Sue, Peter, Patrick and about 40 other disabled individuals on long-term disability.

They were here to tell their stories, to tell us that they will face homelessness if the government fails to pass Bill S-216 by Christmas. These are hard-working and proud Canadians who need and deserve our help.

The Prime Minister can find time to appoint 32 senators for life with a guaranteed pension. Why is he now using these same senators to block passage of Bill S-216?

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2010 / 7:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to what was Bill S-216 and is now Bill S-210.

Before the member for Kitchener Centre gets too excited in his applause for the parliamentary secretary, the fact of the matter is that the leader of the government over there is the one who has put him through all the aggravation regarding this bill.

The member spoke to this bill in the House last fall and there is no reason why we should be where we are today. This bill should have long since been passed. I applaud the member for his determination and hard work on this bill, having gone through the process he has gone through to get the bill as far as he did, then have the rug pulled out from under him by his own leader at the end of the year, and now having to start the whole process over.

After reading in the Senate Hansard what Senator Tommy Banks said regarding this matter, I do not think the senator is as thrilled with the hon. member as the member pretends Senator Banks is. The Prime Minister is creating work for Senator Banks, who could be happily working on some other projects, which I am sure there are a lot of in the other place.

I wanted to speak about the history of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development during its past 131 years. The Office of the Auditor General of Canada has conducted many audits of environmental and sustainable development matters, but since 1995 it has had a very specific mandate in this area, thanks to amendments to the Auditor General Act.

The 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act created the position of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development within the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and gave the commissioner specific monitoring and reporting duties on behalf of the Auditor General. It also added environmental impact to what the Auditor General takes into account when determining what to report to the House of Commons.

I would point out that the reports that are produced are given to Parliament, but under the 1995 legislation the Senate was left out. The government says it was inadvertent and Senator Banks says it was deliberate. I am not sure who is right about it, but, in practice, however, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has pointed out that in actual fact the reports that come through are shared with both Houses, in any event. I believe the need for this legislation is more housekeeping in nature than anything else.

In addition, the departments are required to prepare sustainable development strategies and update them every three years. Finally, the amendments in 1995 to the Auditor General Act also authorized the Auditor General to receive petitions, which the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North spoke about, on environmental and sustainable development matters and required ministers to respond to them.

Under the 1995 amendments to the Auditor General Act, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is appointed by the Auditor General of Canada. The commissioner actually holds the rank of assistant auditor general and, in addition, assists the Auditor General in carrying out the environmental audit responsibilities, monitors and reports on federal department progress in implementing its sustainable development strategies, and also administers the petitions process on behalf of the Auditor General. As the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North pointed out, there is some debate as to whether this position should be separated out of the office.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2010 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today to Bill S-210, which is private legislation by the hon. Senator Banks that will require the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to report not just to the House of Commons but to the other chamber of Parliament as well.

As originally passed, the Auditor General Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act do not currently require either the Auditor General or the commissioner to report to the other place.

Despite this, the fact is that the Auditor General and the commissioner already report their findings to both chambers, by convention. However, the proposed amendments in this bill would formalize that process in law. This is a worthwhile improvement to both acts. I know that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development supports this change.

It should be no surprise that when the hon. Senator Banks, who I know has been working diligently on this for quite some time, originally introduced this legislation as Bill S-216, it received the support of all parties in the House. Unfortunately, the government decided to prorogue Parliament, again, this year, so the legislation had to be reintroduced.

The Standing Orders dictate that private members' bills from the other place are not lost if they are passed again by the upper chamber within 60 days.

Bill S-216 was duly reintroduced and passed again by that other chamber as Bill S-210, and here we are, tasked with voting on it again in the House after the delay caused by prorogation.

It is too bad that this time has been lost, since this bill could conceivably have been passed into law by now. A number of bills are in the same situation, or worse.

Just this week I heard the Conservative member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke speak in this House complaining about how so few bills, especially government bills, had been passed in this session of Parliament. That is really the pot calling the kettle black. If the member's own leader, the Prime Minister, had not suspended Parliament, all the government bills would not have been wiped out. The Conservatives would not have had to start from square one on their legislative agenda. Moreover, if they could work better with the opposition, Parliament could work better and pass more needed legislation.

This bill is fundamentally about reporting on the government's progress on the issue of sustainable development. For over 15 years now, federal departments have been required to make sustainable development plans and to report to Parliament on their progress toward sustainability. Members know that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has been critical of successive governments in following these requirements. Many federal departments have had spotty records on planning and working toward sustainability. Some are not even reporting adequately.

In this context, having formal arrangements for the commissioner to report to the other chamber and to perhaps invite a bit more scrutiny is a good thing.

This bill would also allow the commissioner to report to Parliament more than just once a year. It would allow reporting to occur immediately if something urgent or noteworthy came up instead of requiring waiting a whole year to have it in the next report. That is a reasonable idea.

Right now, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reports under the auspices of the Auditor General and is an assistant auditor. In addition to reporting on the government's progress and plans for sustainability, the commissioner is also responsible for overseeing the environmental petitions process on behalf of Canadians, which was set up to make sure that Canadians can get timely answers from ministers on environmental issues.

It has been suggested by many that the commissioner should be taken out from under the wing of the Auditor General's office and should become more of a stand-alone office. Regardless of whether that is in the cards or not, Parliament must ensure that the office of the commissioner remains independent from interference and that it is funded adequately to continue its important work.

I say this not just because the commissioner performs an important job for Parliament and allows a certain level of desperately needed accountability, but because of the track record of the government. That track record is one of generally avoiding accountability, especially regarding the environment.

Even as we speak, the government is pushing forward legislation to give itself new powers to scrap the majority of environmental assessments on infrastructure and other projects. The government wants the Minister of the Environment to be able to sidestep the checks and balances Parliament has put in place. These checks are there to make sure that we avoid environmental disasters. With the catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, one would think that the government would see fit to rethink its strategy of removing all of the precautions.

Even if the government's primary concern is the bottom line, environmental safeguards are a key element of a good business plan that ensures that projects are sustainable in all ways, economically and environmentally. They prevent hidden financial costs down the road, as BP is discovering. We either invest a little at the beginning, or we pay a lot in the end.

Sadly, gutting environmental assessments this year was just the latest in a number of examples. It was only last year that the same government granted itself the power to basically rip up the assessment process for development projects on lakes and streams in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The obsession of the Conservative government for more and more power and less and less accountability has become very clear to Canadians and to most of us.

Parliament must remain vigilant and ensure that the various officers and commissioners of Parliament, such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the Office of the Auditor General, and others, can retain their independence.

This is private legislation, and thus, members traditionally can decide on their own whether to support it or not. For my part, I am pleased to say that my support for this legislation has not wavered, and I would encourage my New Democratic colleagues to remain supportive as well. I invite all other members of the House to pass Bill S-210 so that it may get the consideration and examination it deserves in committee.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2010 / 7:15 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am more than pleased to stand this evening to speak to Bill S-210. It is a carbon copy of a bill that was originally numbered Bill S-216, a bill brought by a Liberal member of the other place and a bill, frankly, that should have been dealt with and expedited through these Houses some time ago.

The reason we are having to deal with a new version of the same bill is that the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decided to prorogue the House of Commons for some month and a half if not two months in order to avoid democratic scrutiny. One of the unfortunate side effects of that decision is that this important bill was bumped and now, months later, on the eve of the House rising, we get the government reintroducing a Liberal bill to amend a Liberal statute.

As the member for Kitchener—Waterloo just referred to, this bill would perfect and improve the Federal Sustainable Development Act. That act was brought into being through the good work of a previous Liberal member of Parliament who is no longer sitting here but who had worked long, hard and feverishly before his departure from elected office to ensure Canada had an overarching strategy to ensure that as we grew our economy and we created employment opportunities and wealth, we would at the same time stop a fundamental fiction. The fundamental fiction is that the environment remains ancillary or outside or removed from the way in which we operate our economy. It is a view that the member understands ought to be better promoted in his government, but I do not think it is a view the Prime Minister particularly accepts. The view is that the environment and the economy are now completely and inextricably linked.

Let us look, for example, as my colleague asked moments ago, at the G8 and G20 summits being held here in Canada this year. The Prime Minister resisted and resisted dealing with the climate change issue, just as he resisted attending the Copenhagen conference last December until he became the embarrassment of the international world when he was the only leader of the top 80 or 90 countries not to intend to show. So he came to Copenhagen. I had the privilege to be there to follow the negotiations closely and it was a remarkable phenomenon to watch the Prime Minister of Canada walking the halls with literally nothing to do. In fact, when it came time to make a speech to the thousands of delegates who were there, it was the Minister of the Environment who spoke, not our head of government, while President Obama and some of other prime ministers and presidents spoke with great passion about how they were retooling their economies and countries to deal with this challenge of integrating the environment and the economy in a meaningful way.

Even if we took the government's commitment to deal with child and maternal health issues at face value, which it is going only a certain distance in addressing, is it actually possible to address child and maternal health issues today on this planet without dealing with the climate change crisis? My years in Africa on the ground working in development for UNICEF taught me a long time ago that desertification in sub-Saharan Africa, freshwater shortages, growing cycles being interrupted, environmental migration and what would now be called environmental refugees, all of these forces at play on women and children and maternal health ought to be addressed at a meeting that was serious at the G20 level that purports to address these issues.

However, the Prime Minister does not really see sustainable development or this need to show leadership on integrating the environment with the economy as a winning file. I think his chief of staff, his pollsters and his focus groups are telling him, because he is a man who lives by tactics, but I think the Prime Minister has decided that this is an area where he simply cannot win.

Instead of showing the leadership the country desperately wants, needs, and deserves, he has sloughed off the issue. He wants it to be managed and contained to ensure it does not grow into a brush fire for him.

That is what we are seeing here. The bill should have been dealt with three or four months ago. The law should have been passed in the view of the official opposition and we should be working now to actually improve a national approach to integrating the environment and the economy.

After all, the question that this generation has now and for generations to come is a simple question but an important one. Are we going to learn how to live within the carrying capacity of the planet, or not? To pretend that the carrying capacity of the planet is limitless, whether it is through resource extraction, whether it is through putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, this ruse, this fiction is over. What science is telling us is that we have a finite period of time to deal with the carrying capacity challenge. We speak of that in terms of climate change, for example, by ensuring that the planet's temperature does not increase by more than 2°C over the next 50 to 100 years.

The member who spoke on behalf of the government talked about a climate change target that the government has. We accept that target at face value. The government says it is a 17% reduction from 2005 levels in the next 10 years.

If it is a 17% reduction of greenhouse gases in the next 10 years or less, where is the plan? Where is the road map? Where is the pathway to retool our economy to ensure that we can achieve that target? There is nothing.

We have now had almost 55 months of Conservative government. We have had three ministers of the environment. We have had over 10 public promises for greenhouse gas regulations and we have no greenhouse gas regulations. We have no price on the right to emit carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As a result, people and industries will continue to pretend that the atmosphere can continue to assimilate as much greenhouse gas as we can put into it.

We know that cannot be the case and we are falling behind. We are falling behind 27 European Union countries who already have a price on carbon emissions. We are falling behind the United States where President Obama gave a keynote address last night to the nation speaking about the need to transform the American approach to its economic activities and its energy base.

Because we have no plan, it is difficult to take the government, after 54 months of governing, in any way seriously to talk about a sustainable development strategy, one that integrates meaningfully, as I said, the economy, environmental considerations and our well-being.

The greatest mistake being made by this regime is that we are losing out on opportunities like never before. The world is rushing to transform itself, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, country by country, city by city, province by province to adopt clean technologies.

Ontario, for example, recently announced that it was going to become a source of solutions for water and waste water technologies for the entire planet. That is what Ontario has decided to do. That is what we should be doing across the country. With some federal and national leadership, Canada is in a wonderful place to provide so many of the solutions, so much opportunity, so many jobs, so much wealth to be created, while at the same time improving the state of our natural environment, which is simply a necessity as we go forward.

I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition. We will be supporting this bill. It is an important bill that builds on the legacy of the work done by Liberal members and Liberal senators. It is an idea whose time has come. Unfortunately, it should have come some months ago.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency ActPrivate Members' Business

April 26th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, both legislative packages sought to place people further up the list of priority in cases where an employer becomes insolvent. I believe this would help to enhance fairness during bankruptcy proceedings. It would also serve to help protect people from having the rug pulled out from under their feet when their employer becomes insolvent after a lifetime of work and investment.

I also believe that Bill C-501 would complement some of the other reforms that the Liberal Party has proposed, things like creating a supplemental Canada pension plan, establishing a stranded pension agency and measures such as those contained in Bill S-216. I should mention that Bill S-216, which was introduced by a Liberal senator, would seek to do some similar things with disability benefits as Bill C-501 seeks to do with pensions.

Despite the past denials and the stall tactics put forward by the government, I know that pension reform is a subject members of all political persuasions can support. With that in mind, I want to pay tribute to my colleagues, such as the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, the mover of the motion, the member for Ottawa—Vanier, the member for Madawaska—Restigouche, and the member for Random—Burin—St. George's. These four members and many others have made pension reform a top priority, and I thank them for their efforts.

I am pleased to offer my support for Bill C-501 and I eagerly look forward to collaboratively dealing with it further in committee.

I certainly renew my calls for the Minister of Finance, his parliamentary secretary and the government as a whole to get on board with the need that exists out there. Current seniors, former and current employees of companies like Nortel and AbitibiBowater, and future pensioners all have a right to expect that we will take this matter seriously.

Canada is sitting on the cusp of an unprecedented population shift. The baby boomers are getting ready to retire and that will present a range of challenges for the social structures of this country. The upside is that we can see it coming, so if we adopt a proactive approach, many of those challenges can be mitigated or resolved in advance. If we sit idle, I fear those challenges may overwhelm our ability to deal with them, a scenario that would threaten the future income security of an entire generation of Canadians.

I am pleased to lend my support to current seniors, former and current employees of companies like Nortel and AbitibiBowater and future pensioners alike. I certainly hope that all members of the House will support sending the bill to committee.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer my concluding comments in the debate on Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament).

Before I digress to that, I would like to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his very positive remarks today. It is what I have come to expect of him. I also wish to thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for his very generous praise of the government's environmental policies, which were outlined by the parliamentary secretary.

Why do I enthusiastically support this bill? Why should all members support this bill? It is because the proposed amendments seek to strengthen our capacity to progress toward sustainable development. They reinforce one our government's most fundamental priorities: greater accountability and transparency. Our government has been working hard and has delivered many sustainable environmental measures.

The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires the government to produce a draft federal sustainable development strategy for consultation. The act currently requires the government to share the draft federal strategy with the Canadian public, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, a sustainable development advisory council to be created under the act, and a standing committee of the House of Commons.

Indeed, the government will be embarking on broad consultations for the draft strategy in the coming months. Yet, a key institution is obviously missing from these consultations on the draft strategy: the Senate. Clearly, senators are entitled to offer analysis that could improve upon the draft strategy. That is why I am pleased that the proposed amendments before the House today add senators to review the draft strategy.

The passage with all-party support of the Federal Sustainable Development Act last year was an important illustration of our collective commitment to transparency and accountability in this area. In our collective enthusiasm for this legislation, however, some of the key elements were overlooked during the committee stage. The amendments before the House today will address these issues, strengthening the act so that we can work more effectively toward our ultimate goal of sustainable development.

As mentioned, the existing act requires the government to table a draft federal sustainable development strategy before the House. In the interest of fairer treatment of the other place, Bill S-216 proposes that the draft strategy also be tabled in that place. This is a sensible change that I trust will also enjoy all-party support.

In addition, Bill S-216 would give the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development more flexibility in the timing of his report on the fairness of the information contained in the government's federal sustainable development strategy progress report, thus ensuring its timeliness. It also ensures that other reports prepared by the commissioner are tabled in the Senate.

These reports could very well improve the impact of the government's work on sustainable development and they would surely reinforce the goal of greater transparency and accountability. By extending the tabling of these reports to the Senate as well, there is the additional added value of improving the Auditor General Act. Let us show Canadians that we can all work together.

For all these reasons, I ask all members to join with me in supporting Bill S-216. Our government is committed to delivering both sustainable development, and greater transparency and accountability. Also, once again, I repeat my thanks to Senator Banks for originating this bill and for collaborating with me in this non-partisan effort.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-216, a Senate bill. I note that the summary of the bill describes the bill as an enactment that “amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act to ensure the full participation of each House of Parliament”. Clearly there was a mistake made some time back when the original legislation was tabled, but which is now being corrected by this bill.

Bill S-216 is sponsored by the member for Kitchener Centre on the government side. It amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. The former requires the government to produce and table a number of reports before the House; Bill S-216 proposes that the government table the same reports before the Senate. Therefore, the bill gives the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development greater flexibility regarding the timing of the tabling of some of the reports under the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

The bill also corrects an oversight that occurred, as I indicated before, during the development of the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

The act will establish a sustainable development advisory council, and there were a number of suggested groups from whom representatives would be drawn to sit on this advisory council.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment did speak to the bill, and I took the time to reread the first hour of debate, so I am aware what other members had to say regarding the bill. I must admit it was quite far-fetched. It was certainly way off the topic of the bill in many ways. Nevertheless, the parliamentary secretary did make reference to new regulations for tailpipe emissions and said, “We have reduced emissions through stringent tailpipe emissions standards” to begin in 2011.

I can recall the emissions standards in the United States under Jimmy Carter in 1980. They were in place to ensure that the Detroit big three built their cars in much more energy-efficient ways. Following the election of Ronald Reagan and the new Republican right, who were basically the forebears of the current Conservative Party, they took the emissions standards of President Jimmy Carter and basically gave the car companies a pass. They were supposed to bring in certain emissions standards by such and such a date over, say, a five year period, and Ronald Reagan changed that so the auto companies had 10 to 20 years to bring in the same emissions standards.

It is interesting after 38 years in political life and having seen many people change their positions over time to see the Conservatives talk the way they are right now, which I am not used to. Certainly in reading the speeches in Hansard, I have had some big surprises.

The parliamentary secretary has also said that 90% of Canada's electricity will come from clean sources by 2020. I applaud all of what he has to say, but what sort of studies does he have to show that this will in fact happen, because I do not know if the government actually has control of all the levers required to make certain it would?

I would like to get the information from him on that. For example, his colleague, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who is a member from Winnipeg, as I am, has been pushing for an east-west power grid. We recognize that it is important in order to meet the Kyoto targets. In order to reduce the greenhouse gases, we want to have am east-west power grid, so that we can bring developed hydroelectric power from Manitoba.

Rather than shipping it all to the United States on a north-south basis, we want to be able to send it east-west. We want to be able to send the power into Saskatchewan and Alberta, but particularly into Saskatchewan, so it does not have to rely on coal-fired generation, so it does not have to do any further studies of the nuclear option which it is looking at right now.

We want to be able to construct that east-west power grid to Ontario. If we could do that, we could provide hydroelectric power, clean power, to southern Ontario, so that the coal-fired generators that are currently operating in southern Ontario could be retired. I forget the exact number, whether it is five or fifteen, but there is a number of them still operating and they are certainly heavy on the pollution side.

The fact of the matter is that this issue has been dealt with since about 1991 when Premier Gary Filmon who was a Conservative Premier was dealing with Bob Rae who was the Premier of Ontario at the time. The deal fell apart at that point in time. There was talk of starting to look at it again later on and things are just not happening.

It seems to me that with a recession in progress, and I notice that the Conservatives now are talking about their strong connections with the Obama White House. They are now taking a different sort of attitude, and if that is the case, why are the Conservatives not putting up the money, why are they not highlighting this east-west power grid as one of their major projects?

I assume they are heavily interested in re-election. If they want to do that, it is certainly not going to make them any less popular than they are right now if they were to announce that they were going to do an east-west power grid from Manitoba to Ontario, and that we are going to sell power into the Ontario market.

It is just such a no brainer. We are putting the money into the north-south routes. As a matter of fact, Manitoba Hydro is getting close now to building its Bipole III which will be the third bipole.

The debate in Manitoba is whether or not this thing should be built down the east side of Lake Winnipeg or whether it should go all the way out to the Saskatchewan border and come back. I think at some point over time, over the next say 100 years, the Bipole III is going to be built and then we are going to be looking at a Bipole IV at a certain point. There is some advantage to having them spread a wide distance apart. If we were to have an ice storm, for example, and the two bipoles were within 30, 40 or 50 miles of one another, they could both be taken down in an ice storm. Therefore, there is an advantage of having several of them and having them spread out.

We know what happened in Quebec during the ice storm a few years ago. It basically shut the whole province down for a certain amount of time.

Therefore, I see here absolutely nothing coming from the government side on this issue at any point in time. The Conservatives have gone through an election now. The only person on that side who gives us any encouragement is the Minister of State for Democratic Reform who on a couple of occasions has said some pretty good things in support of the east-west power grid, but he does not seem to be getting anywhere with the member for Portage—Lisgar or--

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill S-216, which seeks to amend a bill adopted in the dying days of the 39th Parliament. The bill was sponsored by a former colleague, John Godfrey, who retired from the House just before the fall 2008 election.

Mr. Godfrey was a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. I remember that he did everything in his power to ensure that his bill would make it through the committee stage and be passed in the House before the end of the spring 2008 session, because he realized that the Prime Minister was likely to call an election in the fall, which is exactly what happened.

Mr. Godfrey's bill, which is now a Canadian law, requires the federal government to develop a sustainable development strategy for its departments and agencies. Among other things, it requires the federal government to submit a preliminary version of this strategy to a House of Commons committee to be evaluated. Following the evaluation, the preliminary version would become the final version.

The purpose of the bill was to force the federal government to show leadership on environmental issues through its own activities. To that end, it must set an example for the rest of Canada and the world by taking action to protect our environment and fight greenhouse gases.

Bill S-216 would resolve a significant shortcoming in Mr. Godfrey's bill. It states that the government must consult both the House of Commons and the Senate. In other words, if Bill S-216 is passed, the preliminary version of the federal government's sustainable development strategy will be referred to committees of both the House of Commons and the Senate.

It seems very clear to me that the Senate must play a role in evaluating the Government of Canada's sustainable development strategy, and I will explain why.

First, there are many senators who consider the environment a priority and who have been interested in the environment for many years. These senators have something to say about sustainable development, and we need to ensure that their knowledge and experience will be brought to bear in developing the federal government's sustainable development strategy.

There are four senators who come to mind. The first is Senator Grafstein, who will retire from the Senate before the holidays.

Senator Grafstein has a special interest in water and has been working on this issue for years. There is Senator Lapointe, a great Quebec artist, actor and star, who has an awareness of environmental issues. There are also Senator Grant Mitchell of Alberta, who considers the environment a priority, and Senator Banks, who, when he chaired a Senate committee a few years ago—I do not know whether he is still the chair—released an extremely important report on water in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Senate, in terms of the senators who sit there, is well equipped to take a considered and informed look at a federal sustainable development project.

Second, we know that the Senate is sometimes a bit more representative than the House of Commons, because senators are appointed. For example, aboriginal Canadians represent 1.62% of members of the House of Commons, but nearly 6% of senators. There is also greater representation of women in the Senate than in the House.

The diversity in the Senate's membership is quite interesting. In the case of aboriginal senators, I would like to point out that these senators represent sectors or regions which, unfortunately, suffer the most devastating effects of climate change. We have Senator Watt who represents the Arctic. The Arctic is unfortunately seriously affected by the negative impact of climate change. These aboriginal senators often have a great interest in the environment. Because of the diversity in the Senate's membership, I believe that it is very important that it be consulted on these matters.

I would like to address another point. It is well and good to want to refer a bill on sustainable development to a committee, but we all know that the House committees are swamped. For example, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development is presently conducting a number of studies. The work has backed up somewhat like traffic at rush hour on the Turcot interchange in Montreal. We are currently studying Bill C-311 on climate change. Next, we want to study the oil sands and water resources. We are also conducting the five-year statutory review of the Species at Risk Act. And we have other work.

The House committees are very busy. Why not ask a Senate committee to also have a look at it? This is another reason why I believe the Senate should be involved.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Mr. Godfrey's bill, which we are attempting to amend, required the federal government to show leadership on environmental issues. It is the type of leadership that the Liberal party has always exercised, especially with respect to climate change. Consequently, I believe that it would be a very good thing for our country if the Senate were to be more involved in this matter.

The House resumed from October 26 consideration of the motion that Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to stand in the House on behalf of the constituents of the great riding of Kenora. I am also pleased to participate in the debate on Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament).

To echo what we have already heard, this government is pleased to have senators review both the draft and final versions of the federal sustainable development strategy. We are very happy for their participation in this process as well as all of the other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

As my colleagues previously mentioned, this bill comes in response to an oversight in the original Federal Sustainable Development Act, which, as we have heard, failed to properly include the whole Parliament in its processes.

As the House is aware, similar provisions in the Auditor General Act require the tabling of sustainable development strategies and reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development before the House of Commons. When that language was borrowed for amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the tabling of reports in the Senate was unfortunately lost.

This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and Auditor General Act would offer a further improvement, a concept that we fully endorse.

The government has no issue with the tabling of the reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act or the Auditor General Act before the Senate and is pleased to support this bill. That said, let me take a moment to briefly and importantly address what lies at the very core of the actual Federal Sustainable Development Act, and that is sustainable development itself.

Sustainable development is necessary to Canada's economic stability. We see that in the great Kenora riding with the importance of infrastructure projects that help our mills and our residential, commercial and industrial development not just serve its community for its utility and convenience, but also continue to be more environmentally friendly.

This is also to the financial well-being of our country, because economic decisions can carry with them economic ramifications. Development must be undertaken in such a way that does not unduly deplete Canada's rich and diverse natural capital. This approach to sustainable development calls on citizens, industry and governments to participate equally in activities that achieve results without jeopardizing the future of our resources.

In that respect it has been a guiding principle of this government to work in partnership with all parties to ensure our resources are exploited and developed in a manner that harms neither the economy nor the environment. We heard the parliamentary secretary speak of that balance that any government is trying to achieve in this regard. I am pleased to say that this government has repeated that refrain long and large.

Our collaboration with our partners in the United States on clean energy dialogue, for example, has been as much about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the shared environmental fabric of our two nations on this great continent as they have been about protecting the shared economic footing that allows both Canada and the United States to thrive and prosper.

Our strong and comprehensive approach to ensuring our water resources are used wisely has as much to do with ecological gains as it does with economic growth.

Our measures to clean the air Canadians breathe were created with good health in mind, good personal health, good environmental health, good community health, but also good economic health. All of those are factoring heavily in the design of our regulations, for example, the regulations for tailpipe emissions that we introduced just last April.

I mentioned, quite purposely, the three elements, greenhouse gas emissions, water and clean air. More than any others, these three represent the most recent indicators of good environmental sustainability. As members are no doubt aware, our health, well-being and economic security are highly dependent on the quality of the environment.

Reports of smog alerts, blue-green algae growth in our lakes or shrinking ice caps in our north bring attention to changing conditions in the environment. Issues like asthma, cardiovascular disease and water-borne illnesses underline linkages between the environment and human health. Environmental changes such as low water levels, pest infestations and intense storms also have economic impacts on such sectors as agriculture, forestry, tourism and fisheries.

My point here is that there is an interconnectedness between our abilities to be environmentally sustainable and to experience sustainable economic development in general. The two are not mutually exclusive. As far as developing land, cities, businesses and communities go, our government subscribes to the very definition of sustainable development, namely that we will meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

This definition, to which our government has adhered since being elected into office nearly four years ago, recognizes that social, economic and environmental issues are interconnected and that decisions that will ultimately be judged as being successful are the ones that incorporate each of these aspects over the long term for our future generations.

The fact is that sustainability can be used as a means to enhance the health and well-being of Canadians, as a mechanism for preservation of Canada's natural environment, and as a tool to advance Canada's long-term economic competitiveness, be that on a continental or a global plane.

Given the importance of good, smart, sustainable development to our environmental, economic and even personal health, it goes without saying that this government will continue to do what it can to improve sustainable development in Canada.

This includes continuing to work with all of our partners. I think of the opportunity that we have in northwestern Ontario at this very moment to share in resource management and to learn from sound environmental principles from our first nations communities. We have benefited greatly from understanding traditional practices with respect to care of the land, its lakes, its trees, our forests and other important resources.

As well, we need to continue to work closely and consultatively with industry, our communities, citizens, and other levels of government, including the Senate, for the betterment of Canada's economic and environmental landscapes.

The government is pleased to have senators review both the draft and final versions of the federal sustainable development strategy, as well as all other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The bill responds to what is largely the result of an oversight, as I have said, within the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which failed to properly include the whole of Parliament in its processes.

This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act will offer further improvement.

For the purposes of today's discussion, our commitment to sustainable development also and obviously includes supporting Bill S-216.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2009 / 11:40 a.m.
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Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate at second reading of Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act. The government is happy to support the bill, as a contributor to federal transparency and accountability for sustainable development.

The government believes in sustainable development and is of the view that we have to balance environmental progress and economic progress, that our responsibilities for prosperity are balanced, as well as our responsibilities as stewards of the environment.

While we need a certain amount of prosperity to derive environmental progress, we also know that protecting and sustaining our natural environment is central to this prosperity, to our standard of living, and to the health and well-being of all Canadians. That is why we have taken concrete steps to improve sustainability.

We announced this past March legislation to increase the penalties for polluters, and in April, new regulations for tailpipe emissions.

We have been working with our partners, the Obama administration in the United States, on a clean energy dialogue which will enhance collaboration on the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address climate change.

We have introduced grants under the eco-energy retrofit homes program. We have increased them by 25% to help Canadians take more sustainable action in their homes. This program is a chance for Canadians to save money on home renovations that will reduce energy consumption and that will provide for a cleaner environment. It will also cut their energy bills and save them money.

We have put in place a strong comprehensive approach to ensure that our water resources are used wisely, both economically through making investments in regulating and enforcing laws, monitoring, science, cleaning up problem areas, as well as building partnerships to protect our fresh waters.

This government has been clear on its commitment to environmental sustainability through these and other concrete actions. We have also been clear about our commitment to greater accountability in advancing sustainable development. Part of that commitment was evidenced last year when Parliament passed with all-party support the Federal Sustainable Development Act. All parties were able to work together in a show of goodwill and common commitment to environmental sustainability.

The act represents a marked improvement over the previous approach due to sustainable development plans and reporting under the Auditor General Act. That previous process did not make an overarching federal sustainable development strategy. Rather, it only required individual federal departments and agencies to prepare and table individual strategies every three years, in the absence of an overall guidance or set of federal sustainable development goals. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development likened it to trying to assemble a large jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. With no idea of what that picture was meant to look like, departments and agencies were left floundering.

The new Federal Sustainable Development Act will improve this process by requiring an overarching federal sustainable development strategy, with complementary departmental strategies. These will be updated every three years to reflect sustainability priorities and to reflect progress made through the implementation of the strategies.

The new act also requires oversight at a number of levels, including by the cabinet. It requires the appointment of a multi-stakeholder sustainable development advisory council made up of a broad cross-section of Canadian society. It includes provincial and territorial representatives, business and labour representatives, aboriginal peoples and environmental groups. It requires the establishment of a sustainable development office within Environment Canada to develop and maintain systems and procedures to monitor progress on the implementation of the federal strategy and report this progress to the Minister of the Environment, to Parliament, and to Canadians.

It also requires the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to assess and to report on the government's progress toward its sustainable development target and goals and to assess the extent to which individual departments have contributed to meeting the targets set out in the federal sustainable development strategy.

The Federal Sustainable Development Act will clearly increase transparency and accountability and improve federal sustainable development planning and reporting. Bill S-216 offers further improvements to this important piece of legislation.

This government believes strongly in accountability. Improving Senate involvement in the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act will offer further improvement. Allowing the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development greater flexibility in the timing of his or her reports, which will contribute to the timelessness of the information contained in them, is another important accountability tool.

We are pleased to support this bill. We are also pleased that the draft federal sustainable development strategy that is required under the Federal Sustainable Development Act will be brought forward to Canadians shortly for their review and comment. The consultations will include standing committees of both houses of Parliament, this House and the Senate, the multi-stakeholder sustainable development advisory council created by the act, the Canadian public, and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The views of Canadians will be heard and will be taken into consideration as we work together to prepare the final federal sustainable development strategy, which will be tabled in Parliament within the timelines outlined in the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

I began my comments with the need for a balance between a prosperous economy and a clean environment. This government is committed to that balance. It is committed to making sure that we have jobs for Canadians and that our economy is prospering and growing. However, sustainability also requires that we have a cleaner environment.

When the Liberals spoke earlier, it seemed that they were in a bit of a bad mood, but they know that this government is committed to cleaning up the environment. They were in government for 13 years and we saw growing greenhouse gas emissions and growing environmental problems, but those days are over. This government is committed to a sustainable development within Canada and that means jobs for Canadians and a cleaner environment.

We are committed to work with our international partners. I just came back from Copenhagen late last night. We are very involved with our international partners. Canada is a world leader with technologies such as carbon capture and storage. I heard that the world is depending on the United States and Canada to develop those technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada is a superpower in cleaner energy with those technologies. Our commitment to carbon capture and storage is very important.

We have reduced emissions through stringent tailpipe emission standards, which begins with the 2011 model. Ninety per cent of Canada's electricity will be coming from environmentally clean sources by 2020. There will be a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is one of the toughest targets in the world. That is part of sustainability. We are committed to a cleaner environment and prosperous jobs for Canadians.

I look forward to all-party support for Bill S-216. The government is proud of its actions and commitments to improve sustainable development in Canada while balancing environmental progress and economic progress. We are glad to support Bill S-216.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-216. I will not spend much time talking about the value of granting this change to the law as it would simply make mandatory a practice that already occurs.

I am advised by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development that, as a matter of course, when he delivers his report to the House of Commons he also delivers it to the Senate. We need to be mindful of the fact that if this bill passes, there will be absolutely no change in the practice of the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

I wish, instead, to speak to the value of the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development within the Office of the Auditor General. I have nothing but high praise for the Auditor General of Canada. She does laudatory work. It is regrettable that she only has two years left in her mandate. I have had the privilege, since becoming an elected member of Parliament, to spend time with her and I have nothing but high respect for her work. I encourage her to continue in that vein.

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reports under the ambit of the Auditor General. There has been a lot of discussion about whether the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development should be separated away. Regardless of whether that happens in the future, I have nothing but praise for the delivery of the functions of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

I would like to give particular personal praise to Scott Vaughan, who is a renowned international economist. I had the privilege of working with him when he was working with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. He was working on the economic and trade impacts connected with the environment and I was working in the enforcement realm.

Since being elected and since Mr. Vaughan being appointed as commissioner, I had the opportunity to meet with him when he delivered his reports to Parliament and when he appeared before the parliamentary committee to deliver his reports. He is a credible, reputable, highly skilled commissioner. I hope he will continue in that position for many years because he has done an absolutely phenomenal job.

It is incumbent upon both Houses, the Senate and the House of Commons, to ensure the Office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development remains independent and well budgeted to continue in the role that he is doing so well.

I had the opportunity to review, through the parliamentary committee, the reports he has delivered over the past year and I have nothing but high regard. I could bring to the attention of the House the report where the commissioner audited the Government of Canada on how well it was delivering on its promised program to reduce climate change. The report of the commissioner said that it was very difficult to audit because there were no clear triggers or measurables in the program to allow him to audit and say whether it was delivering one way or another.

In the cases where it was clear what the government was doing within those programs, he stated that those measures seemed to be falling down on the job. While it may have been well intentioned, the government does not seem to be delivering the reductions that it stated it was delivering. The government has commented on those and promised, as is the case with the process, to do better, to provide better measures and so forth.

What we need to look at is the whole series of reports by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development since the appointment a couple of decades back. We also need to know why that appointment was made and why that office was created. It was in the spirit and intent of federal governance being done in an open and transparent way.

From that standpoint, I commend the government that created the office and the government for continuing the office. I would encourage the present government to embellish the budget for the commissioner because there are so many critical matters facing us: the growing number of toxins being produced, emitted into the environment and not yet controlled; the challenge of tens of thousands of chemicals not yet regulated; the challenge with water management in Canada and whether the Government of Canada is carrying out its role in that avenue; and whether the Government of Canada is delivering in transboundary ways, which is the function and role of the federal government.

One of the most important roles of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is to receive petitions from citizens across Canada. When they feel that the government is not delivering on its obligations, citizens can file petitions. Those petitions and the results of those investigations are publicly reported and are a good report card on how well the governments at the time are doing.

Whether we need to make it mandatory on the commissioner to report, I would hope that does not introduce a scenario where the Senate might, in any way, interfere with the timely delivery of the reports or the response by the government. However. I would look forward to both houses of Parliament respecting the reports of the commissioner and responding in a far more timely fashion than thus far.

I have the highest regard for the work by the commissioner but, unfortunately, less regard for the governments of the day in delivering and responding on the very credible reports.

I see no reason to go against this bill. I do not see that it adds anything of necessary value. If the Senate feels that perhaps a future commissioner may not look kindly upon reporting to it, the Senate would have some level of security that it too will be able to talk first-hand with the commissioner.

I can say nothing except that it is good news to hear that the Senate values the work of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and would like to have the opportunity to dialogue with the person who holds that office in the same way that the parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has that opportunity.

I look forward to the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which will be tabled, I believe, this week, and our committee will have an opportunity to meet face to face with the commissioner.

Federal Sustainable Development ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament). Bill S-216 was introduced on January 27 and came before the House on May 14. As I just said, it would amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act in two main ways. First, it would give the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development the opportunity to submit audits of government reports to Parliament more than once a year if he or she wishes to do so.

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is responsible for producing an annual report to be tabled in the House of Commons on a specific date. The report addresses issues that the commissioner wishes to draw to the attention of the House, particularly with respect to the government's progress toward implementing the federal sustainable development strategy. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is also responsible for auditing data in reports that the sustainable development office is required to submit to the minister at least once every three years, reports that are then tabled in Parliament.

By law, the commissioner is currently required to include these audits in his or her annual report. Amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act will enable the commissioner to include the results of these audits in an Auditor General's report.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill S-216, especially because the environment is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Recent surveys have shown that more and more Canadians from all over Canada believe that the Government of Canada's performance on the environment has been terrible. Quebeckers seem to have the harshest words to say about the Conservative government. I cannot over-emphasize just how important this issue has become. I have risen in the House several times now to discuss bills.

People are talking about a navigable Arctic passage. That is not something we should ever have had to discuss in this House. The Arctic should have remained frozen solid forever. But because of global warming, people are now talking about developing an Arctic waterway and protecting navigable waters. This is all going to hurt future generations. Bloc members have always risen in the House to speak up for environmental issues, and we will do so again today.

It is good that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development would be able to submit the results of audits more than once a year, since environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to Quebeckers and Canadians.

Second, Bill S-216 states that the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development must now be laid before each House of Parliament. Members are familiar with the Bloc's position regarding the Senate. I will have the opportunity to explain our position and to speak about the money wasted by the Government of Canada on the Senate.

Nevertheless, the work of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is necessary, especially since it is clear that the Conservative government has a far from impressive record when it comes to the environment and sustainable development. International specialized journals have called the oil sands industry the most polluting industry on the planet. So it is important that the Commissioner examine this issue, so that we do not end up being the laughingstock of the world.

The Commissioner wanted greater powers to intervene. In his last report, he indicated that the government’s progress toward providing guidance to departments on greening their operations was unsatisfactory. The Conservatives' targets are non-specific. They reiterate previous objectives, are non-binding, and are open to interpretation. In short, the Conservative government's development strategies are not focused on achieving effective results. The plan is incomplete and does not incorporate the targets.

Even if the government committed itself to becoming a leader in terms of the environment and sustainable development, it lacks the leadership and the will. So, the Commissioner is asking for more and more powers. The Bloc Québécois supports this request, which was the impetus for Bill S-216 before us today.

This brings me to the question of the Senate. The Bloc Québécois has long called for the Senate to be abolished. I would remind the House that in 1996, a Bloc Québécois member, Paul Crête, moved a motion calling on the government to abolish the Senate. We are in favour of abolishing the Senate. Indeed, senators have no democratic legitimacy, since they are not elected. It is practically irrevocable; they are appointed until the age of 75. They have the authority to oppose measures passed by the House of Commons, whose members are elected. In this democracy, unelected officials can oppose the decisions of elected officials. They are not selected based on merit. They are appointed based on purely partisan criteria.

In 1993, Brian Mulroney appointed David Angus, who was the Conservative Party's chief fundraiser and chairman of the PC Canada fund from 1983 to 1993. He is currently a director and chairman emeritus of the Conservative Party of Canada fund. Thus, his appointment was purely partisan.

The Liberals did the same thing. Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette was appointed in 1995. Since 2007, she has been the Quebec lieutenant for the Liberal Party of Canada. She spends practically all of her time on electoral organization. The same is true of Senator Dawson and Senator Fox, two former MPs who were appointed to the Senate in 2005 by Paul Martin. They are actively involved in organization. I find this amusing, because Senator Fox's son is my rival, the Liberal Party candidate in my riding. I see him at all the discussion forums. I have also noted that he spends all of his time playing politics. I also find it amusing that Senator Fox does not have the courage to run against me. I have often challenged him. If he had any courage, he would have left his position in the Senate and faced me in an election, but no, he prefers to sacrifice his son, whom I will easily beat hands down during the next election. That is the Liberals' choice.

Recently, the Conservatives appointed Senator Léo Housakos and Senator Claude Carignan, who are party organizers. This morning, ruefrontenac.com, the site set up by Journal de Montréal employees who are on lock-out, ran a headline that said, “Léo Housakos—Tory insider raises funds for a number of parties in Quebec”. Those parties include Union Montréal, Gérald Tremblay's party, Action démocratique du Québec—we saw that in the news on the weekend—Vision Montréal, when it was controlled by Benoit Labonté, and the Conservative Party of Canada. A senator appointed by the Conservatives is a fundraiser for a number of political parties.

Again, why have a Senate full of political party organizers who are paid by the government to manage election campaigns for each of the parties, the Conservatives or the Liberals? It all depends on the partisan appointments. The Senate is expensive. Why have a second chamber? We are quite capable, here in the House of Commons, of defending the interests of the public. Again, we are legislators elected by the public.

In 2006-07, according to the public accounts, the Senate cost $81 million, essentially to duplicate the work of the House of Commons. That $81 million could have been invested in health or in dealing with greenhouse gases. Many other things could have been done with that money. No province has had an upper chamber since 1968. Quebec did away with its upper chamber a long time ago. It is interesting to note that members of several provincial upper chambers once had to earn their election. At least some provinces elected the members of their upper chamber. Prince Edward Island's legislative council was elected as of 1862, and the Province of Canada's as of 1857.

Even though it was the Senate that introduced this bill, we will vote in favour of it to protect the environment.