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 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.

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 / 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

October 26th, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons on the second reading of Senate public Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament).

The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires the government to produce and table a number of reports before the House of Commons. Bill S-216 proposes that the government also table the same reports before the Senate. The bill also proposes to give 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.

I am informed that the government agrees with tabling these reports before the Senate and agrees with giving the commissioner that added flexibility. This bill responds to an oversight that occurred during the development of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. Mr. Speaker, as you may be aware, the Federal Sustainable Development Act underwent considerable amendment at the committee stage of its development.

The wording for these amendments regarding the tabling of reports was largely borrowed from the existing provisions of the Auditor General Act. Those provisions required the tabling of sustainable development strategies and the reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development before only the House of Commons. This bill will correct that oversight.

The government is pleased to support this bill and believes in the importance of the role of both houses of Parliament. The Federal Sustainable Development Act allows the government to spell out its environmental sustainability priorities more clearly. It requires the development of an overarching federal sustainable development strategy for the first time since sustainable development strategies were introduced in 1995.

This federal strategy will allow departments to align their respective strategies with federal priorities. The Federal Sustainable Development Act requires a draft federal strategy to be put before the Canadian public, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and a standing committee of the House of Commons for review and comment.

The act also establishes a sustainable development advisory council. It is made up of representatives of the provinces and territories and representatives from labour, business, environmental organizations and aboriginal peoples. They will also each comment on the draft federal strategy. Giving the draft strategy to Canadians in this way increases transparency and accountability. It improves federal sustainable development planning and reporting.

The government supports Bill S-216, which proposes to have senators review the draft of the federal sustainable development strategy and all of the other reports required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. These other reports include the supporting departmental sustainable development strategies. They include triennial progress reports on the federal strategy prepared by the sustainable development office of Environment Canada.

Senate comment on all of these documents will improve the transparency and accountability about which I spoke a moment ago. Further, as a result of amendments made by the Federal Sustainable Development Act to the Auditor General Act, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development will be required to prepare a number of reports. For example, the commissioner must offer a report as to whether the targets and implementation strategies are capable of being assessed.

The commissioner will also assess the fairness of the information contained in the progress report on the government's implementation of the federal strategy. Finally, the commissioner will also continue to audit the departmental sustainable development strategies and report on the extent to which departments and agencies have contributed to meeting the targets set out in the federal sustainable development strategy.

At present, the commissioner can table the results of such enquiries only at certain times. Should Bill S-216 pass, the commissioner would be able to offer more timely reports as Bill S-216 allows greater discretion in this respect.

I am pleased to sponsor Bill S-216 in the House. The government joins me in welcoming Senate review of all the reports I just mentioned and additional flexibility in the commissioner's reporting.

I thank Senator Banks for originating this legislation in the Senate. I have appreciated his assistance and support to me.

I hope that my sponsorship of the bill and the government's support of it will serve as an example of bipartisan cooperation and of the spirit of consensus that represents the best and most noble of parliamentary ideals. I call on all parliamentarians to search out such opportunities for cooperation and consensus wherever possible.

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.

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 / 11:40 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 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

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.